Portland is breaking new ground, but in this case, it’s not an honor we want! There are five known sites in Oregon where the invasive plant goatsrue is found, and three of them are here in the Portland area. The other two are not far away in Gresham and Sherwood.
This is how new invasive plant infestations start out, and we need your help to keep this one contained before it becomes a real problem.
Goatsrue (Galega officinalis) is a federally listed noxious weed and is one of the 100 most dangerous invasive plants according to the Oregon Invasive Species Council. The stem and leaves of goatsrue contain a poisonous alkaloid, galegin, which can cause serious health problems or even be fatal for people and livestock.
Like other invasive plants, goatsrue can negatively impact our local natural areas and streams, threatening our clean water resources. It reduces plant and animal diversity as other, often native, species are displaced by the goatsrue root fragments and large numbers of seedlings. Each plant has approximately 15,000 seeds that are dispersed by small mammals, birds, wind and water. The seeds may be viable for up to 30 years, so it’s important that we catch each plant now!
Goatsrue is a perennial plant in the pea family, native to the Middle East. Plants have upright, hollow stems and can reach two to six feet tall. Goatsrue blooms from June to October with light lilac to dark purple pea-like flowers. Leaflets are arranged in pairs on a central stem. Goatsrue has a leaflet at the very end, instead of a climbing tendril like a garden pea plant would have. Later in the growing season, goatsrue produces straight, narrow, rumpled-looking pods.
Look-a-likes include perennial peavine (Lathyrus latifolius) and common vetch (Vicia sativa). Perennial peavine and common vetch are widely distributed in Portland, and do have climbing tendrils at the ends of their leaves. That’s the easy way to distinguish goatsrue from these look-a-likes: goatsrue has an upright hollow stem and no tendrils.
Are you a landowner with a question about goatsrue, or suspect you have it on your property? We strongly encourage you to contact the City of Portland's Early Detection and Rapid Response Program. Please contact Mitch Bixby at 503-823-2989 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(bottom 2 photos courtesy of King County)
Invasive species affect us all. They damage our forests, streams and rivers, and property. Nationwide, damages associated with invasive species are estimated to be $120 billion each year. In Oregon, the damage invasive weeds cause and the cost of controlling them total about $125 million each year. We know that it costs a lot less to control new invasive plants before they become infestations, so we need everyone’s help. Find out more about the problems caused by invasive species and why Environmental Services works to stop their spread.
Catch up on previous Alien Plant Invader posts: