Green Army join fight against cotton bush

A Green Army team has joined up with the Peel-Harvey Biosecurity Group to pull up mature cotton bush plants on a site in the Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale.

On a site visit to the Murdoch University run Whitby Farm, Peel-Harvey Biosecurity Officers noticed a large infestation of cotton bush adjoining the farm boundary along an unmanaged gazetted road. After learning how the Whitby Farm had successfully eradicated large areas of cotton bush from their property, PHBG officers decided they would look at options to extend this control past the farm’s boundaries. A Green Army team was active in the area and in conjunction with Landcare SJ and the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council it was organised that the team would spend two days pulling up cotton bush.


The Green Army is a hands-on, practical environmental action programme that supports local environment and heritage conservation projects across Australia.


Cotton bush management

Cotton bush is easily spread by the wind with every cotton bush seed pod containing around 100 seeds. When the pod dries up and drops from the plant, the seeds are carried in the wind and where ever they fall, germinate into new plants. The solution to the cotton bush problem is to break the seed cycle by spraying herbicide or manually removing the cotton bush before it sets seed. When a cotton bush has seed pods formed, the pods can be carefully collected in a plastic bag before removal, or the entire plant can be covered by a bin bag before pulling out.


cotton bush seeds

Cotton bush seeds are small and light making them easily spread on the wind.


Mature plants can be difficult to remove, as has been the case at this Whitby site. Mature plants can be cut off at the base and herbicide applied to the cut stem to kill the root and prevent regrowth. Another control method option in winter is to cut the mature plant at its base leaving no more than two centimeters of stem and then stomping on the base of the plant until the stem is cracked and damaged- this leaves the plant open to root rot.

To decrease the spread of seed, cotton bush plants can be piled on site and burnt at a later date if applicable or can even be deep buried.



Green Army pull out cotton bush weed in Whitby.

Green Army participants pull cotton bush in Whitby.

Once an area has been cleared property owners must be vigilant of regrowth. Young cotton bush plants are easy to manage with herbicide and hand pulling, restricting the regrowth so cotton bush doesn’t mature and set seed is the most effective way of ensuring control into the future.

For more information on the different control methods and products available check out the DAFWA website. There is information available on cotton bush as well as other declared pests.

Cotton bush and the community

Controlling declared pests such as cotton bush is the responsibility of landholders and the local community. Declared pests costs society in lots of different ways, but if we can work together many hands make light work and the Peel-Harvey region can become a cotton bush free area. The PHBG’s mission is to educate the community on effective management techniques, helping provide the tools for the removal and control of declared pests. If you would like to become involved in the group or have some ideas on how to get your community involved in pest control, contact us through email at

For more information on the Green Army programme click here.


A white flowered bulb garden plant that is toxic to stock.

Bulbs – bloomin’ dodgy in our bushland.

Recently a report has come through of a C1 weed category bulb identified in native bushland in the Peel region. The only other confirmed population of this bulb species is in Victoria. All C1 declared pest are actively excluded from WA and is the highest control level attributed to declared pests. C1 prohibited organisms may only be imported and kept subject to permits. Permit conditions applicable to some species may only be appropriate or available to research organisations or similarly secure institutions.

Declared bulb species can be purchased over the internet on international sites. However, the importing of plant material into Australia is highly regulated due to the biosecurity risks. Australia’s Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON)  has all the information you need to know about any plant material you may want to purchase over the internet, including whether or not the plant is declared and/or not permitted.

The recent finding of the high risk bulb in the Peel region has highlighted the need for gardeners to become informed on the pest potential their garden bulb species may have, especially since pest plants escaping from private gardens is the most common way of becoming established in bushland.

Bulbs and what they mean for the bush-

Bulbs are plants that are generally spring flowering and reproduce and spread from corms and bulbs. In bushland they can quickly become a problem as the corms and bulbs are protected in the soil from extreme weather conditions and the plants are also drought tolerant. The bulbs can even be protected from fires and herbicide use allowing the plant to continue to spread.

Black Flag an interesting garden plant with a peculiar smell and black flowers. Invasive in bushland.

Black flag (Ferraria crispa) is a popular bulb purchased due to its unusual succulent looking bracts and leaves, even with an unpleasant odour from its black flowers. Black flag has a high reproductive capacity and will seed prolifically, producing stacked corms that make it very hard to treat with chemicals.

A white flowered bulb garden plant that is toxic to stock. Invasive in bushand.

Chincherinchee (Ornithogalum thyrsoides) is extremely invasive and highly toxic to livestock. This bulb should be carefully considered before planting if the surrounding landscape includes farmland, lifestyle blocks, national parks or urban reserves.

How do they get into bushland?-

The most common way ornamental gardening species find their way into bushland is through inappropriate management and disposal. The illegal dumping of garden waste in bushland areas creates a big problem in the spread of declared and invasive weeds.

Solirisation can be achieved by placing a plastic sheet on the ground and weighing it down with bricks.

Solarisation can be achieved with a large plastic sheet and weights.

When working on bulb species in the garden bag up any plant material, soil and/or the corms or bulbs. Leave the bag out in the sun for a couple of weeks before disposing into the general rubbish, you can also solarise larger areas of soil using plastic sheeting. Be aware that composting alone will not kill the corms or bulbs and gardeners should always be aware of the dispersal of plants and seeds from their own garden into the wider area. If you live close to natural bushland areas or alongside livestock then think hard about what you introduce and cultivate in your private garden.



Please do not dump garden waste into our native bush and make sure you bag up loose corms or bulbs when disposing of garden waste. Declared pest management cost the entire community so do your part.

What shall I do if I see one?-

A list of the common bulb species found in our bushland can be found on the Department of Agriculture and Food website. If you see a bulb species out in bushland then use the MyWeedWatcher App to report it. You can also contact the Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group for control information on declared pests.

Cotton bush

Steep Learning Curve for New Property Owner

Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group logo





In a short space of time Mike Donaghy and his wife, Kylie West have made incredible inroads controlling infestations of cotton bush and Apple of Sodom on their Brunswick property.

To demonstrate effective (and not so effective) methods of treating these declared weeds, Mr Donaghy will be hosting a field day on Wednesday, October 5, between 10am and 1pm.
“When we took on the property six months ago I was keen to get rid of cotton bush and Apple of Sodom to improve the productivity of the land. The infestations were so bad that grazing was severely inhibited.

With different advice on offer I decided to trial a range of chemical options, and also non-chemical methods.

The idea of a field day came to mind because I really want to fast-track other people’s control efforts by giving them the opportunity to see what has worked, and not worked for me”, Mr Donaghy said.
The field day will be supported by Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group (PHBG) and Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) and is open to any person who has an interest in controlling declared weeds in the region.
Chairman of Peel-Harvey Biosecurity Group, Vaughan Byrd extended his thanks all those landowners who have been treating their cotton bush and Apple of Sodom.

These two weeds spread so rapidly and we need a community effort to control them. We are grateful to Mike for holding this field day and I encourage landowners to come and learn about the most effective methods of treatment.

The field day will also show how a few untreated cotton bush plants can turn into a 40 hectare infestation within several years,” Mr Byrd said.

Register your interest to attend the field day with the Peel-Harvey Biosecurity Group, by email You will receive an information pack with directions to the property and an outline of the program, which will include an opportunity to chat over freshly made sandwiches. Children are welcome at this event.

Bush Rangers quiz PHBG on weeds

On the 31st May 2016 Jonelle Cleland , Executive Officer of the Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group, held a two hour weeds workshop at Waroona District High School with the Bushranger Cadets.

Bush Rangers WA is a youth-based conservation and community development program run by the Department of Parks and Wildlife. It supports young Western Australians to take an active role in the conservation of the natural environment and better understand the mechanisms for its management.

Below are some of the questions asked by the Bush Rangers about weeds-

What are weeds and how did they get here?

The Australia Government defines a weed as:

A weed is any plant that requires some form of action to reduce its effect on the economy, the environment, human health and amenity. Weeds are also known as invasive plants. Many plants introduced into Australia in the last 200 years are now weeds.

A weed can be an exotic species or a native species that colonises and persists in an ecosystem in which it did not previously exist. Weeds can inhabit all environments; from our towns and cities through to our oceans, deserts and alpine areas.Some weeds are of particular concern and, as a result, have been listed for priority management or in legislation.

How do you get rid of weeds?

Unfortunately there isn’t one recipe for weed control, how much easier would that make weed management! Luckily however there are lots of resources available that provides specific information on a weed you may be having trouble with. These include the Department of Agriculture and Food WA, Herbiguide, and of course your regional Biosecurity Group can answer your queries on weed control.

How do they spread?

Weeds typically produce large numbers of seeds, assisting their spread. They are often excellent at surviving and reproducing in disturbed environments and are commonly the first species to colonise and dominate in these conditions. There are lots of different ways plants use to help their seeds spread. Some plants use animals to move their seeds this is called animal dispersal. Seeds dispersed by animals are usually barbed or sticky and stick to an animal as it brushes past, or they are yummy so an animal eats them or stores them in their burrows. Other weeds use wind dispersal to spread, their seeds usually have wings or other hair or feather-like structures, and they produce lots of them. There are also plants that use water to move their seeds, these are mostly aquatic plants or plants that live near water.

Water Hyacinth, a declared weed, clogging up a waterway

Water hyacinth is one of the worlds worst aquatic seeds and can double its mass in five days. It spreads on water using floating seeds and growth from new stems called stolons.

Blackberry, a declared weed, growing on a hillside

The blackberry is a declared pest in WA and is spread through fruit eating mammals and birds. Each single berry can contain 20-30 seeds.

Cotton bush seeds are small and feathery

Cotton bush is a declared pest and spreads on the wind using its small feathery seeds.


How do they get their names?

A plants scientific name is made made up of its genus and specific name for example blackberry Rubus fruticosus– Rubus (genus) fruticosus (specific). A plants common name generally arises from the local name for that plant and can be descriptive. Some examples of common names include the blackberry, cotton bush, nut grass and onion weed.

Can they kill humans?

The short answer is yes some weeds are toxic to humans. Weeds, like many plants, can be poisonous when consumed or create allergic reactions when brushed up against. Some weeds are especially dangerous because they have brightly coloured berries that are attractive to young children. Many more weeds are toxic to livestock as they are more likely to consume them in the paddock or in hay if it is baled up in an infested area.

A short list of weeds that can be toxic include- apple of sodom, blackberry nightshade, cotton bush, deadly nightshade, thornapple, lantana, cape tulip, and arum lily.

The best way to find out if a plant on your property is a weed and/or toxic is to use the MyWeedWatcher App to I.D your weed and find out the weeds specifications and correct management options available.

There isn’t a way to tell from looking at a plant if its poisonous or not. Be on the safe side and wear long sleeves and pants if playing in weedy areas and don’t put them in your mouth!

How do you identify them?

There are lots of resources available in identifying weeds including the internet, books and now Apps!

Bush Rangers Quiz PHBG on weeds

DAFWA’s new MyWeedWatcher App can help you identify weeds.

How do you stop weeds from coming back?

There are some weeds that have seeds that can be viable for longer than 10 years, which means that one weed control application often wont be enough. Some weeds are best controlled using chemical methods, some can be controlled by mowing or slashing, some need to be physically removed or even burnt. The best ways to ensure success is to correctly identify your weed so you can control it in the most effective way, for example to effectively spray nut grass you must spray it before it forms its 6th leaf to ensure the chemical is taken into its underground node, that’s very specific!

Before commencing weed control its important to have a plan so you don’t waste time and money. The Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group has a Weed Management Plan booklet that can help you plan out your weed control efforts in advance, find it here to download.

Bush Rangers quiz PHBG on weeds


The Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group was excited to host the workshop for the  at Waroona DHS Bush Rangers program and hope to work with them again in the future on protecting their local area from declared pests and weeds. If you would like more information on Bush Rangers WA then follow this link.

Cotton bush

Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group helps landowners remove and dispose of cotton bush.

On Wednesday 20th April officers from the Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group (PHBG), Jonelle Cleland and Teele Hooper-Worrell, helped a local landowner pull out some cotton bush plants. It is important that landowners know the correct way to remove and dispose of cotton bush.  Jonelle Cleland, Executive Officer from the PHBG noted that ‘After removing the green seed pods and placing them straight in a bin bag we were able to pull out the mature plants easily from the soil’. Cotton bush is a declared weed and you are not allowed to simply throw the waste in the bin or put it out on your verge for green waste pickup. You must dispose of the seeds effectively, otherwise they are still viable and can spread to another area.

A great way to prevent the spread of the weed is to use solarisation to kill off the active seeds, with the added benefit of composting some lovely soil for your paddocks or garden beds. Solarisation uses the heat of the sun’s rays to literally cook plants, weed seeds, nematodes, insects, and soil pathogens (the “bad guy” fungi, and bacteria that bring diseases to plants) which occur in the top layer of your soil. It also makes nutrients more available to plants later grown in solarised soil.

Below are some steps for successfully solarising cotton bush plants and seeds you have pulled up on your property.

How to remove and dispose of cotton bush.

How to remove cotton bush

Woman removing cotton bush

Jonelle Cleland Executive Officer for the Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group removes cotton bush.

Step 1- If the weed has active pods growing carefully remove and place straight into a bin bag to reduce the spread of the wind borne seeds.

Step 2- pull up the mature plants and stack in an out the way area, on top of an existing compost pile is suitable.

Cotton bush after being removed.

Correctly dispose of cotton bush seeds by placing the seeds in a plastic bag.

How to dispose of cotton bush


Step 3 – Place plastic bags of seeds in the sun and leave for a few weeks. After the seeds have been cooked the bags can be placed into the bin.

Step 4- Source some thick clear plastic and spread over your mature plants/ and or seeds and weigh down with rocks or bricks. As an alternative you can use black pond liner but it won’t be as quick. Be careful of snakes that may find refuge underneath the plastic.

Peel Harvey Biosecurity Officers with Serpentine-Jarrahdale landowner with pile of cotton bush.

Peel Harvey Biosecurity Officers with Serpentine-Jarrahdale landowner after being show how to correctly remove and dispose of cotton bush.

Solarisation will occur more quickly in summer, in summer you can use the soil after 5 weeks while in winter you may want to leave the plastic on until the weather starts to warm up.

Children at the Peel harvey Biosecurity Stall at the 2016 Food and Farm Fest

Awareness of cotton bush grows through Food and Farm Festival

The Peel-Harvey Biosecurity Group is working hard to raise awareness of the highly invasive weed known as cotton bush. Members and volunteers manned an interactive stall at the 2016 Food and Farm Fest held on the weekend.


The big drawcard of the stall was a kid’s craft activity. Children were engaged in replicating the cotton bush seed pod using play doh, matchsticks and other fun accessories.

child at Peel Harvey Biosecurity Stall at Food and Farm Fest
Jonelle Cleland of the Peel-Harvey Biosecurity Group stated that the intention of the kid’s activity was two-fold.
“Parents are much more inclined to stop and engage in a display if their kids are kept busy. It provides us with the opportunity to initiate conversation and answer people’s questions about cotton bush,” Mrs Cleland said.


“The other important aspect is education. We want people to easily recognise cotton bush – the seed pod is the most distinguishable part of the plant.”
Just one mature plant left to set seed has the capacity to produce hundreds more plants the following year.

Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group at Food and Farm Fest 2016


The best time to control cotton bush is before seed pods appear. Each seed pod contains many seeds with silky tufts that allow them to spread in the wind.


Thanks are extended to the Serpentine Jarrahdale Library for the use of their kids table and chairs. Volunteers on the day included Athol Wigg, Tom Lerner, John and Genny Black, Georgina Hinds, Teele Hooper-Worrell and Jonelle Cleland.


Photos supplied by Georgina Hinds Photography



cotton bush before spraying

Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group and community team up against declared weed


Before and after Cotton Bush control

The Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group, DAFWA and the communities in the Peel region have rallied to control the declared weed cotton bush. 

The group is made up of landholders and local government representatives and stakeholders. Heavy infestations recorded by the group help to define target areas that DAFWA use to direct their compliance process. During 2015 DAFWA Issued 14 compliance notices which were all complied with quickly, and many more reports are of individual property owners initiating weed control.

Cotton bush is spread easily on the wind, with each mature plant producing hundreds of wind borne seeds. Property owners are required under the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007 (BAM Act) to control declared weeds or risk compliance, and have a responsibility to their neighbours to ensure cotton bush isn’t spreading from their property.

Marion Lofthouse a committee member for the Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group is passionate about controlling cottonbush and says “The seeds from 3 seed pods will turn into 300 more new plants. The more cotton bush plants we can pull out or spray before seed set in summer, the sooner we can break the seed cycle!”
The Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group can help property owners set up a weed management plan for their properties and give advice on control methods. You can check the group out on Facebook or email on