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Our district's under siege from pink flowers

23 Oct 2009

Our district's under siege from pink flowers

Every spring our district's hillsides, roadsides and reserves turn pink as the invasive "holly leaved senecio" sometimes known as pink, or purple, ragwort takes hold on any spare land it can find. Holly leaved senecio is an aggressive garden escapee that forms a dense cover, reducing the productivity of land as it competes with pasture and other plants. The downy, parachute-like seeds are mostly wind dispersed but can also spread by people and contaminated machinery.

To help reduce or stop the spread of this plant, residents are asked to hand-pull individual plants on their property. According to Gisborne District Council pests and plants controller Phil Karaitiana it is preferable to get to the plants before they come into flower and while the ground is soft. The ideal time is after it has rained. "Deal with it before it flowers. If plants are in flower then remove flower heads and get rid of them. Don't add them to your compost heap. If you have a larger area of this plant then you will need to control it by using an approved herbicide."

The plants are highly visible at present in various parts of the Gisborne urban and some outlying rural areas. They are easily recognised from a distance by their brightly pink coloured flowers. It is an erect herbaceous plant with oval leaves that is coarsely toothed. It grows up to 1.5 metres tall and has purple, mauve or pink flowers in clusters with yellow centres. It flowers from September to December and gets established very quickly in its preferred habitats. They like waste land situations, hillsides, poor pasture areas, scrubland, and also along roadsides.

Council is not immune from the invasion. "Holly leaved senecio is growing on several council reserves," Mr Karaitiana said. "This was raised at October's Environment and Planning Committee meeting. A contractor has been engaged to spray the plants on council reserves however unfavourable weather conditions have delayed the programme. Spraying will start as weather permits."

Holly leaved senecio has been identified as a containment category plant pest in council's Regional Pest Management Strategy for the Gisborne region. Land occupiers with infestations are required to maintain a 20 metre boundary clearance from adjacent land that is free of this plant.

Contact us for further information on how you can assist in controlling this invasive plant pest.