Did you know that the common garden plant Spanish Heath is a highly-invasive environmental weed? A single plant is capable of producing 243 million seeds in its expected 30-year lifespan. That’s pretty impressive when you think about it, but not when you think about the damage it can do to native flora and fauna.
Council’s Director Assets and Development Vito Albicini said Spanish Heath (which can be mistaken for Common Heath – the state of Victoria’s floral emblem) is favoured as an attractive garden plant because of its evergreen appearance and clusters of white-pink flowers.
‘Unfortunately, in most cases its seeds are quickly spread from gardens onto roadsides or into native bushland and then continue to be spread via waterways and/or by machinery and slashing equipment. The weed establishes itself very quickly and outcompetes native flora.
‘In the lower areas of the Eildon Pondage, including the water’s edge, Spanish Heath is taking over and it is also becoming more prevalent on our roadsides. Japanese Honeysuckle is another highly-invasive weed that has also taken hold in places around the lower pondage and at the water’s edge. Japanese Honeysuckle creeps and climbs over everything in its path, eventually smothering native species. Both weeds present a serious threat to native plants and need to be treated.
Over the coming weeks, Council will be engaging a contractor to undertake spot spraying of these weeds and also some of the Blackberry on Council-managed land around the pondage. This includes areas on the northern side, along Riverside Drive and on the southern side, on the verge adjacent to Goulburn Valley Highway from Bourke Street through to the bridge that divides the upper and lower pondage’, said Mr Albicini.
‘With both weeds growing right to the water’s edge, it makes treatment a little tricky. After consulting with Goulburn Murray Water (GMW) we decided that the best way to tackle it was through the use of a registered herbicide that doesn’t contain a surfactant, a detergent-like substance. Surfactants can be harmful to frogs and other amphibians and other aquatic life. With careful application of an herbicide (through spot spraying) there will be no threat to aquatic life – or to people who visit the pondage.
‘After we treat the weeds, and for some time afterwards, the area will die back and look a little unsightly. However, it’s important to stop the spread of these weeds, particularly given seeds can easily spread downstream via the Goulburn River from the pondage. Follow up treatment and ongoing maintenance will be required and we’ll need to keep an eye out for any emerging weeds so we can treat them too’, Mr Albicini added.