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How to Recognise Weed Plants in New Zealand
Plants that were once garden delights can become the enemy of native bush and biodiversity when they escape and take over non-urban environments. You can do your part by removing problem plants from your garden, community areas and bush blocks. To do so, part of the battle is identifying the plants that can potentially grow in weed proportions. This article provides a starter guide, including identification by images.
Understand how introduced plants get a foothold in native bush.Plants with berries are the most problematic. They are attractive to birds, which eat the berries and in the process they drop berries into areas away from the initial garden where the plant grew (either during flight or through their excrement). The seeds inside the berry grow into weeds in natural bush and reserves, remaining unchecked because there is nobody around to remove them. In addition, plants that grow aggressively can escape garden boundaries and begin growing in adjacent natural reserves if your home borders on native bush. Even innocent transferal of garden waste or berries and seeds stuck on car tyres can also move plants around unwittingly.
Be aware of the results of uncontrolled growth of former garden plants.Garden plants that turn into weeds in the native bush endanger native species through aggressive growth, shading out native species and smothering them. In other words, these plants often take over the environment of the local species and out-compete them. In turn, this destroys the diverse ecosystem that is reliant on the native plant species and exchanges a thriving native environment for a sterile, introduced one.
Recognise the types of plants that can become problem species if they escape from your garden:
- Holly,Ilex aquifolium, either a shrub or a tree, produces small red berries containing seeds.
- Ivy,Hedera helix, a woody climbing plant that produces small, black berries in late winter.
- Wild cherry tree,Prunus avium, a deciduous tree that produces bright red to dark purple drupes mid-summer.
- Hawthorn tree,Crataegus monogyna, produces haws, that are small, dark berry-like fruits.
- Elderberry tree,Sambucus, produces clusters of small red or dark blue, black berries. Known to have a lifespan of up to 100 years.
- Himalayan honeysuckle,Leycesteria formosa- from Asia, a bush of many stems and with wine-red berries during winter.
- Japanese honeysuckle,Loniceria japonica- from East Asia, a strong vine with black berries during summer and autumn.
- Cotoneaster,Cotoneaster spp- originates from Asia, has scarlet red berries in summer.
- Evergreen buckthorn,Rhamnus alaternus- Southern Europe in origin, has red berries that later ripen to black.
- Darwin's barberry,Berberis darwinii- a South American plant with purple berries in summer.
- Banana passionfruit vine,Passiflora tarminiana
- Pampas grass,Cortaderia selloana, native to South America. A strong-growing, highly adaptable plant that rapidly becomes an invasive weed.
- Boneseed bush,Chrysanthemoides monilifera, native to South Africa, has black fruits.
- Snakefeather,Asparagus scandens- a plant originating from South Africa, it is a climbing vine with a fern-like appearance. It has orange berries in autumn.
Remove potential problem plants.If you are growing any of these plants in your garden and they are not appropriately contained or sheltered from birds, the best thing that you can do is to remove them. There are many delightful New Zealand native alternatives that you can replace them with, or ask your local nursery for choices on introduced plants that are not likely to cause problems via their berries or aggressive growth patterns.
- Burn material that has been removed from your garden; this is the surest means for preventing reproduction of the plants. Alternatively, if you can be assured that your compost bin is working well and at a high temperature, you might choose to compost instead.
- Consider joining a weed-busting group in your local community to help clear up weed infestations in local reserves. If one doesn't exist already, consider creating one.
- Never eat berries or fruits from plants and bushes unless you are absolutely certain that they are edible and safe for human consumption. Care also needs to be taken of pets and livestock who might have access to plants with poisonous berries, leaves or fruits.
Things You'll Need
Eye for detail
Sources and Citations
- Inspired in part by Greater Wellington Biosecurity pamphlet entitled,Destroy Bad Berries. Further information can be found via Greater Wellington Biosecurity at and .
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