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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Living off the Land

Aug. 25, 1998

Camel thorn sticks in the side of growers

Staff Writer
West Texas has more than its fair share of poisonous
plants. Over 75 species -- more than any other region of the
country -- may prove deadly to grazing livestock, said Dr.
Charles Hart, Texas A&M extension range specialist.

"It's an ever-present problem for ranchers and land
managers here because some plants cause more problems during
a drought, like we're having now, and other plants are more
of a problem during wet periods. Then there are those
species that ranchers must contend with constantly," Dr.
Hart said.

Camelthorn is one plant that represents a constantly
encroaching menace.

Also known as Caspian, or Persian, Manna, Camelthorn
originally ranges from Cyprus, into the Anatolian region and
east into the Middle East and the Iranian Plateau. The
sparsely-stemmed, thorny shrubs were introduced to the
United States, South Africa and Australia in the early part
of this century.

Though they produce far fewer seeds than the African Rue,
another toxic plant, it is far more difficult to kill.
Chemical trials are in their third year by county extension
agents, and a recommendation is expected next year. But, for
now, nobody is making any predictions of the trial chemical

Don't try cutting it back or mowing it over. Seeds grow all
the way down the Camelthorn's tap root, which in extreme
cases has grown as far as 12 feet down, with lateral roots
having been recorded reaching 12 meters.

"You can have a top-kill with 2-4D (a common herbicide) but
it will re-sprout from the base," said Roberts.

"The last thing people want to do is shred or mow. The only
way to kill it is with chemicals or dig it out of the
ground," said Hart.

Camelthorn has become fairly widespread around the Town of
Pecos City, causing area ranchers to mutter under their
breath when they discover a patch. Horses learn fast to
avoid the spiny plants, and often can't even be sweet-talked
through the noxious shrubs.

Evidence of the weed is also popping up around Toyah Creek
and in area irrigation ditches.

According to Dr. Hart, Camelthorn has also become a problem
in Pecos, Culberson, Hudspeth and Ward counties. "It comes
in spots and takes over," said Hart of the plants aggressive

The plant is a problem in cultivated fields, especially
alfalfa, because alfalfa is a crop that a grower wants
standing for seven or eight years, said Reeves County
extension agent C.W. Roberts.

"It is not such a big problem in cotton fields," he said,
"because these are seasonally chopped and cultivated."

In its third year of testing, a field of Camel Thorn due
east of Pecos is being sprayed with six "broadcasts" and six
individual plant treatments.

Camelthorn is listed federally as a noxious weed. Texas has
no such list, but if it did, Roberts said, the most wanted
species of West Texas irritants would include African Rue,
Camelthorn and Salt Cedar.

These are three non-native species that Texas does not have
control strategies for. There won't be any recommendation
until next year.

"This time next year we will have our preliminary
recommendation," said Hart.

Or, as Roberts puts it, "They won't hurt anything by
spraying it (with chemicals), but it may be a waste of

Though extension agents originally thought the plant would
not be difficult to control because the seed pods contain
only five to eight seeds each -- far fewer than the African

Camelthorn has an extensively developed root system and is
able to locate water that is up to 15 meters beneath the
surface. It may grow in multiple soil types, including sand,
silt, clay and rock crevices.

Camelthorn was introduced into California in alfalfa seed
shipments from Turkestan, and into Arizona by bee keepers,
but it is not known how the weed found its way into Texas.

A series of workshops, sponsored by the Texas Agricultural
Extension Service, Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic
Laboratory and Texas A&M University System, that began on
July 22 in Del Rio, paused for the month of August, and will
be caravaning around West Texas again in September, are
attempting to tackle this topic for growers.

"Our main goal with these workshops is to help producers
identify specific plants and problem areas on their ranches
and recognize toxic symptoms early to prevent livestock
loss," said Hart. "Once these factors are identified, then
we can explore options for livestock management or even
plant control."

Unfortunately, dead animals are usually the first sign of
trouble with toxic plants, said Dr. Bruce Carpenter,
extension livestock specialist. "The challenge is to figure
out why they died. It may be disease, a plant, or even
something like a lightning strike that killed them," he said.

"If dead animals aren't the problem, other less definitive
losses, like poor reproduction, or just `poor doing'
animals, may be robbing profits," said Carpenter.

Workshop participants will spend time in hands-on
exercises, practicing the identification of toxic plants
specific to the region. They will also see evidence of
various livestock plant poisoning symptoms and will hear of
treatments available for affected animals.

The Integrated Toxic Plant Management Workshop will be in
Alpine at the Brewster County Extension Office on September
8, in Van Horn on September 9, and in Fort Stockton on
September 10. The workshop then moves to Stanton on
September 15, Kermit on September 16 and Big Lake on
September 17.

The newly-released "Toxic Plant Handbook" will be available
during the workshops for $14.95 or it may be ordered through
area county extension offices. The 120 page reference
features over 50 plants with full color pictures.

Along with the photographs is text describing each plant's
distinguishing characteristics, individual description,
habitat, toxic agents, livestock poisoning symptoms and
integrated strategies for management and control.

Keep Tainted Corn Away From Deer

COLLEGE STATION -- It's a simple message, but one that
wildlife specialists want shouted across the countryside:
Feed that is not suitable for livestock likewise should not
be used for deer and other wild animals.

"I've received several calls from landowners and hunters
asking whether it is OK to feed aflatoxin-tainted corn to
deer in feeders," said Dr. Neal Wilkins, Texas Agricultural
Extension Service wildlife specialist. "And we, of course,
are trying to get out the message that, `No, it is not.'"

Wilkins said that because the natural food supply for
wildlife is low this year due to drought, animals are more
likely to "key in on supplemental feeds," meaning that they
would more likely to eat the inferior feed than if other
sources of food were available.

He especially warned against buying unlabeled feed.

"There are quite a few self-bagging operations on farms
that sell `deer corn,"' Wilkins noted. "Anything that is
marked `deer corn' but has not been tested should not be
fed. Only feed that is labeled and tested as suitable for
livestock should be used."

The wildlife specialist said that, in addition to being
toxic, aflatoxin causes liver cancer in adult cattle and
other livestock. Deer and other wildlife are at the same
risk, researchers believe.

"Aflatoxin also suppresses the immune system resulting in
disease outbreak," he noted. "And the immune systems in deer
already are down due to the drought, so they don't need
additional stress."

Wilkins noted that although aflatoxin can be immediately
toxic, some of the effects are not outwardly visible, so
(aflatoxin) poisoning of wildlife is not something that is
always visible immediately. "But you can be certain that it
does have a negative effect," he said.

"There are tons of corn that are fed to deer in Texas every
year," Wilkins said. "But as a rule, landowners and hunters
should not feed corn that has not been tested, and most
certainly should never feed corn rejected for livestock
consumption because of high levels of aflatoxin. It's better
to feed nothing at all."

New Boll Weevil Zone Includes Trans-Pecos

AUSTIN -- Agriculture Commissioner Rick Perry has finalized
the designation of the El Paso/Trans-Pecos Boll Weevil
Eradication Zone. This designation is based on extensive
comment and full consideration of all the economic,
agronomic and entomological aspects of this important
cotton-growing area of Texas.

The new El Paso/Trans-Pecos Boll Weevil Eradication Zone
consists of approximately 60,000 acres of cotton in 15
counties: Brewster, Crane, Crockett, Culberson, El Paso,
Hudspeth. Jeff Davis, Loving, Pecos, Presidio, Reeves,
Terrell, Val Verde, Ward and Winkler.

Perry also appointed Larry Turnbough of Balmorhea to
continue representing the zone on the Texas Boll Weevil
Eradication Foundation Board of Directors until a director's
election is held.

When cotton producers and the Texas Boll Weevil Eradication
Foundation indicate they are ready to proceed with an
eradication program in the zone, TDA will set a referendum.
At that time, growers and crop-sharing landowners in the new
zone will vote on whether or not to establish an eradication
program and to approve a maximum assessment. A director's
election would also be conducted during the referendum.


By Sue Toone
Guest Columnist
Growing herbs in containers can play an important role in
your overall garden strategy. There are many reasons for
using containers for growing herbs.

Some herbs are invasive, that is, the plant will not stay
where it is planted. There are two decisions to be made
before planting invasive herbs. Either give the plant a lot
of room to spread, or dig and divide them often by splitting
and replanting or destroy the divisions. Or you may detach
the runners or grow the plants in containers.

Boundaries such as containers are needed for the invasive
mint family because of their underground rhizomes (runners)
that spread throughout a flower bed. If you want your mints
in the garden, just bury the container in the ground. Mint
favorites include peppermint, spearmint, pineapple mint, and
apple mint. Periny royal is a mint that can be used as an
insect repellent and should not be ingested.

Other invasive herbs include tansy, also called bitter
buttons, bee balm, a perennial that attracts butterflies,
costmary whose leaves, back in another time, were supposedly
used to mark pages in the Bible. Also tarragon must be put
into a container by mid-summer or it will not grow well, and
horseradish (if established in a flower bed) is impossible
to remove and will do well in a container.

Not only are the invasive plants spread by rhizomes, some
are also prolific self-sowers such as catnip, lemon balm,
and sweet woodruff. Removing the flower head before the
seeds can ripen will solve the problem of self-seeding. All
these herbs are prime candidates for container gardening.

Containers can be moved outdoors, indoors, here, there,
anytime, anyplace. Some herbs need at least five hours each
day of bright sunlight or some sort of light. Container
gardening also gives the gardener the freedom to move plants
around to take advantage of the sunshine. If sunshine is not
readily available, a double bulb fluorescent light hung
about six to eight inches above the plants will aid in their
growth. This is especially helpful during the winter months.

However, some herbs will grow well without direct sunlight,
but must receive good light. Herbs such as chervil are used
in fines herbes and its anise-flavored leaves are used in salads and soups. Other partial shade herbs are mints, bay, parsley, rosemary, thyme -- another fines herbs of French cuisine -- and sweet cicely, a plant that all parts can be eaten. Back in another time, the brown, three-quarter-inch seeds were crushed and used as furniture polish. Lorage, which tastes like celery, can grow up to seven feet tall.

Growing the culinary herbs in or near the kitchen areas is
also a convenience for the cook. A container outside near
the back door can be filled with the culinary herbs and
certainly several pots of herbs can fill a sunny window
sill. A pot of aloe on the window is readily available for
sooting small burns. Just break off a segment of a leaf and
apply its sap on the burned area. Aloe should not be over
watered, and be certain it has good drainage.

If the plant container has a saucer, be sure and pour out
any water that has gathered. Some of the herbs most often
used in cooking are the basils (bush basil, a dwarf low
growing; lemon basil, used in potpourri, herbal teas and
cold drinks; and sweet basil, a must for tomato sauces and
salads) and all are recommended for indoor growing. Purple
basil is not recommended for growth inside the house.

Other herbs recommended for container gardening are bay,
chamomile, chives, and nasturtium, which is used in salads.
Oregano is a must for Italian cuisine (pizza) and flavor for
eggs and tomatoes. Rosemary leaves give flavor to meat and
poultry, but needs a nighttime temperature of 50 degrees.
And sage leaves are great for seasoning our Thanksgiving

The containers for the herbs can be any size, any color,
any shape. The only thing that the container must have is a
drainage hole in the bottom. Good drainage, either with a
container or in a garden, is necessary for healthy plants.
Plants with a tap root will not do well in containers. Fill
your container with potting soil and you are ready to
transplant herbs or sow seeds.

Herbs adapt to the container environment by growing more
slowly and therefore the plant will be a tad smaller than it
would out in the garden. Pinch and prune the plants often to
promote bushy growth. When the roots stick out the drainage
hole, it is time to get a larger container. Container plants
need to be fertilized about once a month. Plastic pots hold
moisture longer than clay pots so you need to check the
moisture by sticking your finger about one inch into the

More information about herbs can be found at the Reeves
County Library, 505 S. Park, and the Reeves County Extension
Office, 700 Daggett-Suite E.

C.W.'s Quips

By C.W. Roberts,

Reeves-Loving County Extension Agent


Here in Reeves County, the Peach Tree Borer and the Lesser
Peach Tree borer can cause major damage to fruit trees.
Peach trees and plum trees are the most susceptible to these
insects, but borers can attack other fruit trees as well.

Often infestations go unnoticed until parts of the plant
begin to show damage. The damage caused by Peach Tree Borer
will be found on the trunk and the Lesser Peach Tree Borer
on the scaffolding branches. Small erratically spaced holes
indicate entry points. A gummy substance with sawdust will
ooze from the wounds. If there is no sawdust present, the
problem could be mechanical damage, disease or other causes.

The adults will be in the field in August and September.
This is the peak period for egg lay. The eggs are laid at
the base of the tree and hatch about 10 days later. The
larvae bore through the cambium layer into the sapwood of
the tree forming tunnels and disrupting the transport of
water and nutrients. A single feeding larva can destroy a
1-2 inch diameter tree.

Control for borers are chlorpyrifos (Dursban, Lorsban), or
endosulfan (Thiodan). Mix according to label directions.
Spray the lower trunk and around the base of the tree,
soaking the bark. DO NOT apply to fruit or foliage.
Treatment for borers should be applied in late August and

Borers can also be controlled by applying PDB crystals
(paradicholrobenzene) around the base of the tree between
October 20 and November 15. Apply the crystals to dry soil
and with air temperatures 55 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
Encircle the tree with the crystals after removing all weeds
and cover the crystals with soil. In late March or early
April, remove the soil from around the tree. Do not use moth
balls or crystals containing napthalene.

If you need further help, call C.W. Roberts, County
Extension Agent-Ag, at 915/447-9041.

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Pecos Enterprise
Mac McKinnon, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.

324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321

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Copyright 1998 by Pecos Enterprise