Tasmanian Weed Alert Network

The Tasmanian Weed Alert Network is a group of volunteers looking out for serious new weeds in Tasmania. Volunteers come the across livestock, cropping, forest and mining industries, the community and government. We have around 80 volunteers spread across the state, including on the Bass Strait islands.

We developed our target list of 40-odd target weed species using guidelines from Standards Australia. The list includes a mix of cropping, pasture, environmental and aquatic or freshwater weeds.

When  volunteers find a target species they collect a good-quality specimen and send it in to us for positive identification. Once we are certain about the identity of the weed we can bring DPIPWE into the process, along with its powers to follow up with affected land managers.

The Network has run short training sessions around the state to educate volunteers about:

  • how to collect a quality weed specimen
  • recognising our target weeds.

Matthew Baker from the Tasmanian Herbarium has brought out an excellent spread of target weed specimens from the Herbarium’s collection, which help volunteers to get a better feel for recognising target species.

Volunteers are finding and reporting target weeds

The point of recruiting and training volunteers is to spot serious new weeds. Since the Network was re-established in 2009 volunteers have reported the following target weeds and (except where noted) the Tasmanian Herbarium confirmed their identity.

White Spanish Broom (Cytisus multiflorus)

We have had one report of this weed from a remote location on the West Coast. The report was passed on to DPIPWE. The land manager treated the weed at the time as part of an ongoing program to eradicate it. This plant is a close relative of Scotch broom (C. scoparius), a familiar weed of the Midlands.

Cypress spurge (Euphorbia cyparissias)

We have had reports of this weed from suburban gardens in Hobart (two reports) and the West Tamar (one report). The reports were passed on to DPIPWE. In two cases DPIPWE liaised with the landowners to help them remove the weed. In one case the weed remains at the site.

Cypress spurge is reported to be allelopathic against grape vines. This is not a declared weed, which limits what we can do with reports once they come in.

Yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus)

We have had two confirmed and one suspected report of this weed from riverbanks in the Tamar, Brumbys Creek and Meander catchments. In the two confirmed cases the reports were passed on to DPIPWE. This plant is toxic to stock and a nuisance in irrigation hardware.

African feathergrass (Pennisetum macrourum)

We have had one report of this weed from a roadside near Queenstown. The report was passed on to DPIPWE. The West Coast Council was notified of the infestation and will schedule treatment into its weed control program.

Feathertop (Pennisetum villosum)

We have had one report of this grass weed from a suburban roadside near Hobart. The report was passed on to DPIPWE. The volunteer who reported this weed removed it at the time of collecting a specimen.

White-edged nightshade (Solanum marginatum)

We have had one unconfirmed report of this weed from vacant land in suburban Hobart.

Seedling willows (Salix spp.)

We have had one report of this weed from the West Coast. The report was passed on to DPIPWE. The volunteer who reported this weed removed it at the time of collecting a specimen. Parent plants for these seedlings have been targeted as part of an ongoing program against Salix cinerea on the West Coast.

Why have the Tasmanian Weed Alert Network?

News from South Australia over the past few weeks is a timely reminder about the value of the Network.

South Australia has just given up the battle to eradicate branched broomrape (Orobanche ramosa) after a 20-year campaign costing $40 million. Branched broomrape is a parasitic plant which affects a wide range of hosts including canola, faba bean, carrot, broccoli and cauliflower, causing massive yield losses. Other broomrape species have been recorded parasitising native vegetation in Australia.

Branched broomrape was first detected in the Murray Mallee in 1992 with an ultimate spread over a 300,000ha-plus range. State and Australian Governments funded attempts at eradication, but factors including the longevity of the seed and a recent wet season made this impossible. Affected properties were subjected to rigorous hygiene and quality assurance programs, at significant cost to individual farmers as well as industry and government.

Branched broomrape is a target weed for the Tasmanian Weed Alert Network. Whereas our volunteers regularly detect the common and much less serious clover or lesser broomrape (O. minor, not a target weed), branched broomrape is not thought to occur in Tasmania. Network volunteers are the front line against this serious weed threat in Tasmania, providing early detection.

The $86,000 establishment cost and $9000 annual maintenance cost for the Tasmanian Weed Alert Network is a small and worthwhile investment to protect against weeds which could affect us the way branched broomrape has hit South Australia.

The future of the Network

The Tasmanian Weed Alert Network has been running for two years. Its current funding ended in early August 2011. The Network’s government, community and industry partners believe that it should continue beyond August 2011. To help achieve this we have secured around $9000 from the Tasmanian Landcare Association to maintain the Project Officer position, and communications, for half a day per week into 2012. This means that volunteers will have a steady point of contact to whom to send target weed specimens and a steady source of support for their weed surveillance.

And a word from our sponsors…

Re-establishment of the Tasmanian Weed Alert Network is funded by the Tasmanian Community Fund.

Continuation of the Network into 2012 will be funded by the Tasmanian Landcare Association and Wildcare Inc. through the Tasmanian Landcaring Grants, with funding from the Australian Government’s Caring for Our Country initiative.

Jonah Gouldthorpe
Project Officer
Tasmanian Weed Alert Network
0410 059 027