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 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.
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 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!
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.
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.