New weeds to watch for in Douglas County: Houndstongue

By Aaron Rosenblum
Foster Creek Conservation District

Welcome to the first in a series of articles that will introduce readers to new weed invaders of Douglas County. The weed species featured are known from only a few locations in the county, but have the potential to become widespread and problematic. The goal of these articles is to inform and educate Douglas County residents, leading to the early detection and rapid treatment of small weed populations before they become major issues throughout the county.

This week’s weed to watch for is houndstongue (Cynoglossum officinale). Houndstongue is an aggressive noxious weed originally from Europe. It is generally a biennial, meaning it completes its lifecycle in two years, but may persist for multiple years if conditions are favorable.

The plant forms a rosette in the first year, where leaves are all close to the ground in a circular pattern and there is no visible stem. The leaves are veiny, hairy, rough and oblong resembling — you guessed it — a hound’s tongue. In the second year, a flower stem 1 to 4 feet tall forms producing clusters of small (3/8-inch wide) reddish-purple flowers, with five lobes each. A single flower produces four seeds that are covered with barbed hooks. The hooks readily attach to wildlife, livestock and people passing by, allowing the plant to be dispersed long distances easily.

Houndstongue establishes in disturbed areas, including roadsides, ditches and grazed lands. It is tolerant of shade and especially likes wetter soils. Livestock pastures and grazed riparian areas are great places to look for houndstongue.

Houndstongue is highly competitive and will quickly out-compete native and pasture grasses. In addition to the loss of usable pasture caused by houndstongue invasion, the plant also contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids that are toxic to livestock. Livestock owners will want to remain especially vigilant!

Foster Creek Conservation District, as part of the newly formed Douglas County Cooperative Weed Management Area, has funding to assist landowners with the control of houndstongue. If you believe you have houndstongue on your land, please contact me at 423-5990 or; or contact Dale Whaley with the WSU Extension at 745-8531, ext. 6352.


Aaron Rosenblum is the natural resource specialist for the Foster Creek Conservation District.