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How Did Goatheads Come To Idaho?

Back in 2016, Wanna Know Idaho listener Marshall Simmonds was out on a summer bike ride with some friends on the Boise Greenbelt. Suddenly, a bike tire popped. Then, another. Soon, Marshall and his friends found themselves walking their bikes back home with 18 popped tires, thanks to a patch of goatheads, or puncture vine, that had made its way onto the trail. 

He knew these plants are invasive. But invasive from where exactly? For that, he wrote to Wanna Know Idaho and asked: 

"Where did goatheads come from? I was originally under the impression that they were brought in as a preventative measure for the Idaho State Penitentiary in Boise as a deterrent for prisoners who may have escaped."

We first called up Roger Batt, the state coordinator for the Idaho Weed Awareness Campaign, who gave us the rundown on where goatheads originated and why they're such a big problem for Idaho ecology. And as for the story in the second half of Marshall's question? That's something only Amber Beierle — a historian with the Idaho State Historical Society at the Old Penitentiary in Boise and the state’s foremost expert on the Old Pen’s history — could answer. 

Here's what they had to say: 

Finally, Amber, our Old Pen historian, has a request: if a relative worked at the Old Penitentary around the turn of the century and has any archival information — personal journals, letters, etc. — that might offer a clue about the truthfullness of the goatheads lore, let us know! Send us an email at idahomatters@boisestate.edu.

What Gem State curiosity should we look into next? That's up to YOU. Submit what you want to know below and you could be featured in an upcoming episode.

Until next time, stay curious Idaho!


Thanks to Boise music project ‘Up is the Down is The’ for the awesome theme music. Check the project out on Spotify and Bandcamp.

Copyright 2020 Boise State Public Radio



Molly Wampler is a newsroom intern at Boise State Public Radio. Originally from Berkeley, California, she just graduated from the University of Puget Sound in Washington state. There, Molly worked for her university's newspaper but is stoked to try her hand at and learn all there is to learn about radio journalism.

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