Weed Spotter Newsletter
Issue number 13
Welcome to our Weed Spotter newsletter. This is the thirteenth edition and includes a new segment profiling one of our Biosecurity Officers and what they do to protect the state from high risk invasive plants. We also have an article on the State prohibited weed display at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show.
Karen Herbert – Biosecurity Leader, Incursion Controller
|DPI staff locate an infestation of king devil hawkweed
|Orange hawkweed flowers
Hawkweeds (Hieracicum spp) are extremely invasive plants with a number of species being problem weeds in New Zealand and other countries. Hawkweed infestations can be found in a number of locations around Australia, including Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales, Falls Creek and Mt Buller in Victoria and various locations across Tasmania.
Originating in Europe, these pretty perennial and annual herbs have the potential to severely damage Australia's alpine ecosystems by out-competing native grasses and wild flowers. The name Hieracium comes from the Greek word 'hierax', meaning hawk. The ancient Greeks reputedly coined the term 'hawkweed' because they thought that hawks ate the sap of these plants to sharpen their eyesight.
A Victorian Alpine Hawkweed Eradication Group has been formed to coordinate hawkweed eradication at both Falls Creek and Mt Buller. The partnership approach comprises of the Department of Primary Industries (DPI), Parks Victoria, the Resort Management Boards (Falls Creek and Mount Buller/Mount Sterling) and Ski Lift Companies of both alpine resorts.
The eradication program is comprised of two main components:
- surveillance to determine the extent of the incursion and to detect new infestation sites within the known infested area; and
- monitoring and treating all known infestation sites as part of the eradication effort.
Weekly surveillance, monitoring and treatment is undertaken from November to March each year to coincide with the key flowering period.
Results of the hawkweed eradication efforts at Falls Creek and Mt Buller have shown a measurable decrease in the total number of infestation sites, particularly in the last three years. At Falls Creek last season, survey efforts led to the detection of three new sites, all in areas not previously known to be infested. Additional surveillance is planned for these areas in the coming season, to determine the extent of these infested sites and to again search for any new sites.
Annie Lamb – Biosecurity Officer, Port Phillip
|The dinstinctive feathery roots of water hyacinth
Department of Primary Industries (DPI) officers are increasing their engagement work with some of Melbourne's largest markets to alert sellers of declared noxious weeds being sold. Biosecurity Officer Annie Lamb met with market organisers at Caribbean Gardens Market to discuss the issue of declared noxious weeds and the responsibilities of plant sellers. This follows the detection and removal of water hyacinth plants being offered for sale at the market in April 2011. Market staff were provided with information kits containing coloured brochures, posters, identification guides and an explanation of declared noxious weed legislation. The meeting also gave market staff the opportunity to ask questions about declared noxious weeds and how they can assist DPI prevent their sale.
Caribbean Gardens Market staff accompanied DPI officers on a "meet and greet" with plant sellers at the market. Plant sellers were provided information kits and had the opportunity to engage with DPI staff face to face, and clarify their responsibilities as plant sellers. The majority of plant sellers were aware of some plants being prohibited from sale and expressed a desire to be environmentally responsible. The "meet and greet" was received very well and most plant sellers were grateful for the opportunity to ask questions and have the legislation clearly explained to them.
With the assistance of market staff, recall posters were also placed at the market in an effort to recover any water hyacinth plants sold to the public during March and April this year.
Similar engagement exercises will be introduced to other markets across Melbourne over the coming months.
Kylie O'Hagan – Biosecurity Officer, Port Phillip
|Water hyacinth found being sold in buckets|
The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) receives a number of reports of State prohibited weeds being traded and displayed at markets, nurseries, expos and restaurants every year.
In recognition of the serious threat that these species pose, biosecurity officers follow up all trade reports to determine whether a breach of the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 has taken place.
On confirmation of a State prohibited weed, officers assess suitable control measures for each infestation site. Officers also attempt to identify the source of the plants being sold and who else may have purchased them. Investigations can last one day or many weeks, depending on how long or how many plants were traded.
Over the past 12 months, three people have been prosecuted in the Magistrates Court for the sale, display and propagation of the State prohibited weed water hyacinth, in and around Melbourne. The cases involved:
- A 'mixed business' shop owner in Springvale that was fined $800 and convicted for the display and propagation of water hyacinth.
- A nursery owner in Footscray found guilty of possessing, propagating and selling water hyacinth was fined $800 with conviction whilst the supplier of the plants was also fined $800.
- A further two offenders were given an official warning from DPI, one for the display of water hyacinth at a restaurant and a second at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden show (MIFGS) for displaying water hyacinth.
DPI currently has a number of further prosecution briefs in relation to State prohibited weeds awaiting court appearances.
Melissa Semken – Biosecurity Officer, Engagement
|The State prohibited weed display at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show
Events like the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (MIFGS) are a great way to raise awareness in the community about State prohibited weeds. If you saw the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) stand at this year's show, we would be interested to hear your feedback on our display.
MIFGS was held from Wednesday 30 March to Sunday 2 April 2011 at the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens. It was the seventh year in a row where DPI hosted a State prohibited weed display.
This was the 16th year of the show which is now regarded as the largest and most successful horticultural event in the southern hemisphere.
The DPI display focused on informing visitors about State prohibited weed species and encouraging new reports. It promoted a new slogan of 'See it - Report it'. The slogan helped draw attention to the plants, raise awareness of the threats they pose and that sightings of State prohibited weeds should be reported to DPI.
Feedback from the display was positive, with the majority of visitors reporting (through the visitor feedback survey) that their knowledge of the species had increased as a result of visiting the display. Visitors had the opportunity to see some of Victoria's State prohibited weeds up-close and liaise with staff on-site to answer questions and provide information.
The 2011 display was deemed a success with over 3,500 garden enthusiasts visiting the DPI display over the five days of the show. A total of 26 State prohibited weed reports were received with six of these verified by DPI's Biosecurity Officers. While many non-verified reports were found to be look-alike species, these reports provide a valuable indication that the public are actively looking for the target species.
If you missed us this year, be sure to come and say hello at the next State prohibited weed event, and don't forget that if you See It - Report It on 136 186.
Kate Weir – Biosecurity Officer, Corangamite
|Mexican feather grass|
With the upcoming arrival of spring, the season of regeneration brings the unfortunate re-emergence of unwanted plants. One such plant is the State prohibited weed, Mexican feather grass.
Mexican feather grass plants were sold through various retail outlets in Victoria and interstate in 2008. Whilst the exact number of plants traded is unknown, it is estimated that as many as 10,000 plants and seed could have been traded. Approximately 75% of what was originally traded has been recovered by DPI and Biosecurity Officers remain vigilant in working towards locating the remaining plants. Now's the time for Weed Spotters and the wider community to assist in achieving this goal by keeping a look out for Mexican feather grass and reporting any suspicious looking grasses to DPI on 136 186.
A perennial tussock, Mexican feather grass has fine leaf blades that feel needle like when rolled between the thumb and forefinger. When in the juvenile form, it stands erect and appears wispy. When in adult form, the plant can reach 70 cm in height, is dense, and appears green or purplish when in flower. The seeds of Mexican feather grass are distinctive, with long tails (awns) and appear as a feathery mass within the head of the plant. As these plants were sold through nurseries, it is likely that many will be found in public and private garden settings rather than the wider landscape. Please refer to the photos to assist you to identifying it.
If you would like further information to help you identify the plant or to make a report to DPI, please call 136 186 or email email@example.com.
Catherine McInerney – Biosecurity Leader, Weed Spotter Coordination
State prohibited weeds are managed by the Biosecurity Victoria Division of the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) and guided by the Victorian Biosecurity Strategy. This strategy outlines a vision for biosecurity management in Victoria and aims to protect Victoria from biosecurity threats that affect our primary industries, environment, social amenity and human health. A critical component of this strategy is improving our surveillance and incursion response management systems, which is where Weed Spotters play an integral role. To reflect this biosecurity approach, Weed Alert Contact Officers are now known as Biosecurity Officers. To contact a Biosecurity Officer about Weed Spotters or to report a State prohibited weed please call 136 186 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a way of getting to know what Biosecurity Officers and other DPI staff are involved in on a daily basis, Weed Spotter newsletters will now include a staff profile in each edition. We hope you enjoy this new addition.
|Annie Lamb working in the field|
Name: Annie Lamb
Position: Biosecurity Officer
Location: Frankston DPI
When did you start with DPI? July 2007
What roles have you done since then? I have been in the same position since I started, and worked on different projects such as the Mexican feather grass incursion in 2008, and emergency response efforts such as responding to the locust threat in 2010-11.
What does your job involve? Monitoring around 250 State prohibited weed sites across the southern section of Port Phillip Catchment. This includes about 200 Mexican feather grass sites that I will keep an eye on to make sure no seedlings germinate. We have to follow specific protocols about the number of times a site needs to be inspected for regrowth after we have removed a State prohibited weed. Once each site has been inspected a certain number of times without any germination, we can formally classify the site as being eradicated.
I also deliver Weed Spotter training to Weed Spotters and industry groups such as local government, water authorities and public land managers.
I sometimes meet with people such as nursery managers or market organisers to explain DPI's role and the responsibilities of plant sellers. I distribute information kits so that they have a good understanding of how they can help DPI prevent new incursions of State prohibited weeds.
Other tasks include: managing contracts, emergency response, assisting other staff members with surveys or mapping projects, developing media releases to raise public awareness, investigating new State prohibited weed infestations and attending field days or events such as the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show.
What do you like about your job? Meeting interesting people. I like getting out and talking to people when I do inspections, some people take great pride in their garden and love talking to me about it. I also pinch ideas for my own garden.
I also like the variety of getting out in the field, delivering training and doing office based work.
Do you have any funny stories or unusual things you have done as part of your job? I once had a phone call from a bride-to-be who wanted to check if anything on the list provided by her florist was a noxious weed. She didn't want to be seen to have weeds in her wedding bouquet or floral arrangements! I though that was very environmentally responsible and certainly the most unusual phone call I've had.
I have plenty of funny stories too, like getting bogged three times whilst working on the 2010-11 locust response and getting poked in the eye with a horsetail plant and ending up in emergency with a scratched cornea!
What do you like to do outside of work? I love to go camping, exploring new places and enjoying the outdoors. I also like photography, particularly landscapes. I spend my weekends visiting friends. This year we are building a house so most of my spare time is spent picking up things for the house or meeting with the builder.
Where have you travelled? I have travelled extensively in Australia and did a lot of remote 4WD-ing with my dad. I've been to all states in Australia except WA. Last year I went to Thailand and visited Chiang Mai, Bangkok and Koh Samui which was my first overseas trip. The locations we went to were a great snapshot of the different types of environments and cultures in Thailand. This year I am going to New Zealand to visit friends and explore the North Island.