Concern over toxic weed

Ellie HoneyboneMidwest Times
Mark Wells, 7, pictured with a handful of freshly picked golden crownbeard and next to a pile the dead weed.
Camera IconMark Wells, 7, pictured with a handful of freshly picked golden crownbeard and next to a pile the dead weed. Credit: Ellie Honeybone, Midwest Times

Geraldton residents have expressed their concern about a growing number of golden crownbeard plants spreading through rural suburbs.

Verbesina encelioides, often referred to as Dongara daisy, was first recorded in Geraldton in the late 1980s.

It is a yellow-flowering shrub that displaces native vegetation and is toxic to humans and animals.

Woorree resident Theresa Wells knows all too well the devastating effects of this harmful weed.

One of her horses died after ingesting the plant in 2015.

“It was heartbreaking to lose a horse especially knowing we may have been able to prevent it,” Mrs Wells said.

“We didn’t have much golden crownbeard on our property when we moved but it quickly spread from nearby vacant land.

“At first, spraying the weed was very unsuccessful so we had to keep picking it by hand.

“The seed bank builds up and trying to deal with it ourselves is a big job.

“We found there was not much support from the Government or help available.”

Mrs Wells eventually paid for an agronomist to visit her property and teach her how to get rid of the plant and make up a poison mix.

“We are finding it needs to be sprayed four times per year if we are to keep on top of it. It grows so quick and is so prevalent in the area — in the past two years we have really watched it spread.

“I think the issue is that people don’t know about it and there is a lack of exposure to the dangers.”

Mrs Wells said removing the pest from her property had become an expensive process.

“We really need help getting it off vacant land and verges,” she said.

“We have to be concerned where we are getting our hay from because we know it can be in farmers’ paddocks.

“I have been told that just 200g can kill an adult sheep, which is not much at all.”

City of Greater Geraldton acting chief executive Ross McKim said crownbeard was listed as a “pest plant” under the Agriculture and Related Resources Protection Act 1976.

“It is therefore the responsibility of the landholder to control the weed and the City may serve a notice to landholders to control crownbeard on their property,” he said.

“The City is reviewing its verge management strategy to see how it can improve the control of crownbeard.

“The weed can be controlled by physical and chemical means and control is most effective when it is carried out before the plant sets seed and using a combination of different removal methods. It is also most effective when efforts are continued over a number of years to remove any remaining generations.”

A spokeswoman from the Department of Agriculture and Food WA said golden crownbeard was not declared a pest in WA under the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007 because it was not considered to be a significant plant pest of agriculture.

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