PORT ORCHARD, Wash. - Dana Coggon is trying to stop an epidemic while cruising country roads at 40 mph.
"There it is," she said as she pulled off a road in the rural community of Olalla. She got out and looked over an inactive farm field filled with clumps of tall yellow flowers. "Tansy ragwort," she proclaimed.
Tansy ragwort is an invasive species that spreads with lightning speed on the summer breezes and whatever it can attach itself to. When it lands in hay or livestock fields it becomes a deadly threat.
Coggon said the flower which resembles a small, yellow daisy, is an alkaloid that strikes the liver of its victims, especially horses, and is often fatal. It can also cause liver failure in cattle and goats, even people if they eat it.
The harmless looking plant has been a problem for years but few have seen it as widespread as it is this year in Kitsap County and others parts of Western Washington.