By Brynn Mathews
When you’re out enjoying the country around Emu Creek and the Walsh or Palmer Rivers you can do something to both improve the environment and help increase biodiversity. The Mitchell River Watershed Management Group (MRWMG) needs your help with a control program for a particularly nasty weed.*
If you had to invent the meanest, most invasive weed possible you’d be hard pressed to come up with something worse than Bellyache Bush, recently elevated to a Weed Of National Significance.** Most parts of the plant are highly toxic to both animals and humans, making it responsible for significant stock losses. It invades riverbeds, banks and riparian zones, thrives on any natural or man-made disturbance and forms dense thickets that can even choke out rubber vine. It has exploding seedpods that can throw seed up to 13 metres and also reproduces vegetatively from stem cuttings or whole removed plants, allowing it to spread very readily in the wet season floods of the Mitchell catchment. Seeds also travel easily in soil or sand on vehicles or machinery, which is how it is believed to have travelled from the Palmer River, where it’s main infestation is in the region (allegedly started from a discarded pot plant) to Emu Creek in the upper Walsh River catchment.
What can you do to help control this mongrel of a weed? Actually, you can do quite a lot. You can help by learning to identify Bellyache Bush and report wherever you see it in your travels. If you find only a few young plants before they form seed you can kill them by pulling them out, breaking the stem and putting them either on exposed rocky ground or up in the fork of a tree. It’s important to break the stem to dry the plant out and prevent it from taking root again if it gets in contact with moist ground. This weed is definitely hard to kill.
You can find out how to identify and report Bellyache Bush by contacting Brynn Mathews at the Mitchell River Watershed Management Group on 0413 112 719, or email firstname.lastname@example.org We need to work together to identify how far this weed has spread so that we can plan a control program to stop it spreading throughout the rest of the catchment.
* Weed – any plant growing somewhere it’s not wanted or where it’s displacing useful or native species
** Weed of National Significance – once was an emergent weed, but now too widespread and invasive to ignore and will be a target of government funding.