Elton's on the warpath

Posted: Friday, August 05, 2005

On the WaterfrontBy Elton Engstrom

This is my war with JIP. This is not a contest between political parties. It is not taking stands on the road to Skagway or the struggle in Bosnia or Afghanistan or Iraq.

It may be more momentous and permanent than that. It is about the herbaceous future of our parks and forests.

I began to notice JIP in my yard about 10 years ago. It had spread until it had colonized an area of about 20 feet by 30 feet and had begun to extend down the hillside. But I was able to eradicate it. It took me about three years. Whenever I saw a bud, I picked it and pulled free as much of the root as I could. I couldn't just throw it away. I usually burned it in my fireplace. I didn't want to let it spread elsewhere.

I concluded that if I could keep JIP from flowering, even though I didn't get all of it, it would atrophy and disappear and so it did after about three years. I didn't use any herbicides.

You've guessed by now that JIP means Juneau Intrusive Plants.

My particular nemesis was the Japanese knot weed, a very hardy bamboo like creation that is said to be capable of crowding out all other vegetation around it. It grows so tall -at least six feet or more - that it looks like an enemy army on the march.

There is an especially big wild patch of JIP on Starr Hill, from the Bergmann Hotel and up the hillside - an area of close to 10,000 square feet. Gosh, I wish the city would send a crew to pick it all and keep doing it for three years. JIP seems to thrive in loose soil.

It's nice to have a war in which all the contentious voices in Juneau can agree.

"Defeat JIP" is our call to arms.

• Elton Engstrom is a lifelong Alaskan, retired fish-buyer, lawyer and legislator (1964-70) who lives in Juneau.

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