Stinking Roger, cobblers’s peg and blackberry nightshade — ‘daunting’ weeds grow to two metres tall after fire and now rain

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Landowners on the bushfire-ravaged NSW Far South Coast face the daunting task of removing varieties of unwanted weeds, which have grown out of control following decent rainfall. Key points:Weeds on the NSW Far South Coast have become “relentless” following heavy rain after the bushfiresThe region was devastated by the 2019–2020 bushfire seasonLocal councils are encouraging landholders to…

Stinking Roger, cobblers’s peg and blackberry nightshade — ‘daunting’ weeds grow to two metres tall after fire and now rain
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Landowners on the bushfire-ravaged NSW Far South Coast face the daunting task of removing varieties of unwanted weeds, which have grown out of control following decent rainfall. 

Key points:

  • Weeds on the NSW Far South Coast have become “relentless” following heavy rain after the bushfires
  • The region was devastated by the 2019–2020 bushfire season
  • Local councils are encouraging landholders to monitor their properties and seek advice

The region was devastated by the 2019–2020 summer bushfires, but the subsequent break in the drought saw the blackened landscape transform into a sea of green.

But with new life comes new weeds.

“In some ways, we’re really grateful because after the drought it’s so lovely to have green,” said Deua Valley resident Alison Walsh.

Inkweed, nightshade and black wattle have made a major comeback on Ms Walsh’s bushfire-affected property, while other species like fireweed, Patterson’s curse and Paddy’s lucerne have made a debut.

“It’s like the seed source has been activated after the fires, and there was no vegetation, so I guess everything just took off,” she said.

“Things I thought I got rid of, like tobacco bush and cassia, have come back again.”

A woman stands in a blue shirt holding weeds in her hands with burnt trees behind her

Inkweed, nightshade and black wattle are just some of the weeds that have run rampant.(

ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon

)

She forms part of Deua Rivercare, a community group trying to get rid of weeds in the valley.

But a big job lies ahead.

“Down to the river, the weeds are two metres tall,” she said.

“It’s quite precarious and hard work.

The Eurobodalla Shire Council has been inundated with requests from landholders about how to manage weeds like blackberry nightshade, stinking Roger, cobbler’s peg and swan plant.

Senior biosecurity officer Paul Martin said it was important to identify weeds, especially species never seen before.

“After the fires, there was a blank slate,” he said.

a man stands smiling at the camera wearing a fluro shirt with trees and water in the background

Paul Martin encourages landowners to tackle weeds one step at a time.(

ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon

)

Mr Martin urged residents to not become overwhelmed by the task ahead and to contact their local council for advice.

“People are seeing plants they’ve never seen before … all of a sudden they’re everywhere,” he said.

“People shouldn’t feel that burden. They should understand it’s part of a natural regeneration process that happens after fires, flood or any major disturbance.”

Weeds as feed

One farmer in Candelo is using weeds on his property to his advantage.

Bruce Davison runs a 162-hectare cattle farm, using 250 Boer goats to keep African lovegrass down on his property.

But as a secondary control method, he cuts the lovegrass before the seeds can mature to create hay bales for his cattle to eat during the winter months.

A man stands holding cut lovegrass wearing a green shirt and cap. There's a tractor in the background

Candelo farmer Bruce Davison cuts lovegrass into hay bales for his cattle. (

ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon

)

“It’s a high-carb and low-mineral plant, early successional plant, and that’s why stock generally don’t do well on it. Except when it’s young. Then it’s got enough protein for them to digest,” he said.

Mr Davison said herbicides and grazing methods were also popular in managing African lovegrass but on repeat applications.

“I would much rather not have lovegrass. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone,” he said.

“But when you’ve got it, it’s not something you can just decide to get rid of and it not come back.”

Steaming weeds

Volunteers at the Panboola Wetlands in Pambula are harnessing steam to manage kikuyu grass.

A man holds out a metal hose which projects steam onto the grass

Michael Bernard uses a steaming method to manage kikuyu grass.(

ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon

)

“It’s probably the thing we spend the most of our effort controlling,” said project manager Michelle Richmond.

A woman in a purple shirt stands in front of Panboola Wetlands

Michelle Richmond says steaming is just one way of controlling Kikuyu.(

ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon

)

The steamer was acquired last year as an alternative method to control grass and thistles, but manual labour and sometimes chemicals are used for other weeds like blackberry and nightshade.

The steamer also required repeat applications.

“It’s not convenient. It’s not a ‘hit and then it’s gone’. But it’s another method in our toolbox,” Ms Richmond said.

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