‘Pretty flower’ found in Arizona national park is a big problem. ‘We need your help’

A “pretty flower” popping up in a southern Arizona national park is a big problem and officials are asking the public for help.

Stinknet has bright, yellow ball-like flowers with “carrot-like leaves,” the Saguaro National Park said in a Feb. 28 Facebook post.

But it’s not what it seems.

The invasive weed from South Africa has recently started to spread in Tucson and within Saguaro National Park, officials said.

“This is a really bad new invasive plant, probably the most troubling local arrival since buffelgrass in the 1930s,” the park said.

The weed spreads aggressively and has already invaded Phoenix, officials said.

Stinknet has yellow globe flowers that grow up to 1 inch wide, wildlife officials said. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Servce
Stinknet has yellow globe flowers that grow up to 1 inch wide, wildlife officials said. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Servce

What’s the problem with stinknet?

Like the name suggests, stinknet has an unpleasant tar-like or turpentine smell.

“The smell is so overwhelming it can give you a headache,” Brian Shomo, Riverside County Habitat Conservation Agency’s director of natural resources, told the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The unwanted plant also grows in “dense mats,” the wildlife agency said. This becomes a problem when it overtakes native plants, such as wildflowers in Arizona, the park said.

The weed starts to grow in October, then starts to seed in March and April, according to the University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The seeds help stinknet spread rapidly.

By summertime, stinknet dries out and becomes wildfire fuel, and can spread flames to areas with more trees and shrubs, the school said. Burning stinknet can also cause respiratory problems for people inhaling it, the national park said.

How to stop stinknet from spreading?

In Saguaro National Park, park officials found it growing in a couple of spots in the Tucson Mountain District, which is on the park’s western side.

Park officials are controlling these areas.

But the park is asking local communities in Tucson for their help controlling stinknet from spreading further.

“We cannot be everywhere at once, and we cannot adequately protect the park if we don’t know where it’s popping up nearby,” park officials said.

Anyone who sees stinknet growing in the national park, Tucson or southern Arizona in general, should report it.

People can download the Survey123 app on their phone, with these instructions from park officials.

Reports can also be made to stinknet.org or iNaturalist.

If anyone spots stinknet in their yard, they can pull it out with gloves, but a report should still be made so officials can track its movement.

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