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Happy Valley’s Weeds Are On The Run

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The long-awaited clean-up of the weed-infested Happy Valley Central Dune area has started with a bang.

In the week starting 20 July, seventeen Fraser Island Defenders Organisation (FIDO) volunteers, including eight Happy Valley locals and two Butchulla Land and Sea Rangers, mounted an attack on weeds in this area.

FIDO and friends – the Happy Valley Weed Management team in July (Photo: FIDO)

The area is very heavily infested with a range of weeds. Residents have been expressing alarm for some time that the poisonous seeds of Abrus had been turning up in their residential blocks in increasing numbers. These bright red seeds are deadly and are a threat to residents and visitors, especially children. One chewed seed can kill an adult! 

FIDO recently had their Deed of Agreement with the Department of Resources extended to include all the Unallocated State Land at Happy Valley (thus, allowing FIDO to work in this area). This includes the central dune area between the first and second valleys and extends from the public toilet block to the dingo fence at the beach.

The area was divided into six sections, with volunteers spending most of their week removing the bright red seed heads of Abrus by hand and bagging them up. Volunteers weighed the seed pods as they picked them. We picked a total of 130 Kg of seed heads for the week.

Myles Broom, Chris Breitenbach and Blayde Foley with collected Abrus seed heads (Photo: FIDO)

Many very large plastic bags and containers were filled with Abrus seed pods. At the end of the week, they were emptied into a pit dug by local identity Pat Brown with his ditch digger on an old, degraded dumpsite known as Trevor’s Tip, East of the helicopter pad.

Abrus is a creeper. It had extended into the canopy of trees and scrambled over shrubs and across the ground. We pulled it down out of trees wherever possible. Where not possible, we cut it off as high as possible, leaving the high material up in the canopy to die.

As well as collecting Abrus seed pods, 1380 Abrus plants were pulled out by hand where possible, or in some instances where the plants were too big to pull, removed with a drill and auger or cut close to the ground and the butt pasted with the herbicide Vigilant.

The area is heavily infested with several other weed species. These were hand-pulled or cut close to the ground and the butt ‘cut and pasted’ with the herbicide Vigilant. The following were removed:

  • Easter cassia: 1224 plants, about half were hand-pulled, with the remainder cut and paste.
  • Lantana: 120 plants were removed using cut and paste.
  • Broad-leafed pepper: 90 plants were removed using cut and paste.
  • Beach almond: seven plants removed by cut and paste.
  • Brazilian nightshade: 50 plants were hand-pulled.

FIDO is also trialling the herbicide, Slasher. Slasher is a registered organic foliage spray herbicide. The active ingredient is an organic acid found naturally in plants in the Geranium family. It is a contact herbicide, which means it kills where it touches the leaf. Therefore, it is not absorbed or translocated in the sap to other plant parts like the roots. Herbicides like Glyphosate (Roundup), on the other hand, are absorbed and translocated throughout the plant.

Chris Breitenbach preparing Abrus seeds for emptying into trench (Photo: FIDO)

FIDO conducted a trial using Slasher on Abrus growing North of the Ambulance Station, where 306 plants were foliar sprayed early June. When observed in late July, the plants were in a very damaged state. However, in many instances, the stems were still alive, and as Abrus has a very large root, the roots will probably be alive as well), meaning they may regrow. FIDO will continue to monitor these plants in the coming months and determine if this organic herbicide has a place in our ongoing weed control program.

Collaboration is the key to success. This exercise has been a great example of what can be achieved if we work together as a team. FIDO volunteers from Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, members from the Happy Valley Community Association and the Butchulla Land and Sea Rangers all worked together. It was fantastic, and we got a huge amount done. Thanks also to Trent Juster from the Department of Resources for organising the new Deed of Agreement that made it all possible.

FIDO will be back in the week starting 14 November to continue the work. However, there’s a lot more to do.

Contributed by Peter Shooter, Fraser Island Defenders Organisation

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