Fireweed on the agenda

Fireweed on the agenda

The impact of fireweed on the district around Bega inspired local farmer, Ian Brownrigg, to convene a meeting of other interested people to consider what might be done to prevent a similar situation developing in East Gippsland.

The economic and social impacts are best understood by looking at the web site of the Bega Valley Fireweed Association. The seriousness of these impacts prompted a Commonwealth grant of close to $300,000 for research into biological controls. This work is still in progress.

A good number of people attended the meeting at the Clifton Creek Hall last Sunday to discuss how to deal with fireweed that has been found in several locations in the area. The thing that sets this noxious weed apart from other invasive noxious weeds such as African Lovegrass is its toxicity.

This was evidenced by the irritation caused to the hands of one of the Landcare members after he had been engaged in pulling plants and bagging them for destruction.

Skin contact such as a horse rolling in fireweed can cause dermatitis, but recovery may be expected. The symptoms of poisoning as a result of animals ingesting the weed vary depending on the amount and period over which it is eaten.

Damage to the brain and liver is insidious and may develop over a short or long period of time. The outcome is not good.

In order to make identification of the plants easier, some plants in flower and seed were securely contained in a plastic box and displayed for those present to examine.

The differences between a native species that occurs in the area and the exotic one were explained.

The plant being in flower at this time of the year may more easily be seen. In the case of small infestations hand pulling (with gloves), bagging and deep burying is an effective treatment. Burning has been found to spread the fine seed, some of which gets caught in the updraft and later germinates in a circle around the fire.

Currently the weed is in the noxious weed category of “Restricted” whereby its control is the responsibility of the landowner or occupier.

Locations where it has been found are along Deptford, Waterholes and Bellbird Roads.

Two representatives from the East Gippsland Landcare Network, facilitator, Erin Weir, and chairperson of the pest, plant and animal subcommittee, Ken Stuart, will endeavour to promote awareness throughout the rest of East Gippsland so that control or eradication can be more effective.

Efforts will be made to work with other interested bodies such as the local council, which has responsibility for its roadsides and reserves.

PICTURED: Ian Brownrigg addressing the fireweed meeting at Clifton Creek last Sunday. After seeing the impact of fireweed on the district around Bega local farmer, Ian convened the meeting to consider what might be done to prevent a similar situation developing in East Gippsland.