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Coral Creeper Not Wanted on K’gari

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It’s not difficult to understand why the coral creeper (Barleria repens), a native of Africa, became a popular garden plant in this country.

Coral creeper flowers
Don’t be fooled by coral creeper’s attractive flowers (Photo: David Anderson)

It is an evergreen shrub, when contained, with attractive tubular flowers with five spreading red, salmon-coloured or pinkish lobes. However, when it escapes into bushland, coral creeper forms dense thickets in the understorey of bushland and smothers native plants.

I was not surprised, though very disappointed when I discovered that a former caretaker at the Beach House complex had planted some coral creeper seedlings in their gardens. He said he had seen the flowering plants in the bush and thought they would look good in the complex. He removed them after I pointed out their weed potential.

Coral creeper (a.k.a. small bush violet, creeping Barleria, red Barleria or coral bells) has infested bushland in and around Eurong.

After the late John Sinclair pointed out coral creeper to me in 2016, I accepted his offer to work on the Unallocated State Land under FIDO’s umbrella. So began my campaign to keep on top of coral creeper in a couple of areas, particularly between the resort valley and the residential valley in Eurong.

John had sprayed a large infestation in one of those areas, and I concentrated on spraying the emerging seedlings. As an exercise, I counted the number of seedlings I dealt with from May 2018 until February 2019. Then, I included the numbers in my report to FINIA. Over six occasions during that time, I sprayed a total of 3656 seedlings.

Unfortunately, my life changed in 2019, and I had to leave the island for almost three years.

Like many other weed species, I returned last year to find that coral creeper had thrived in my absence. Though not free of coral creeper, the area I had concentrated on from 2016 to 2019 had very few seedlings. So that, at least, was a bright spot. However, the coral creeper is now in new areas around Eurong’s residential valley. I also found large infestations in other areas between the two valleys.

In November last year, I began a treatment program to contain coral creeper in three target areas. I returned to these areas in December and again this month to monitor progress and deal with plants I missed and with emerging seedlings. Time will tell how effective my efforts have been.

There will have to be follow-up inspections and treatments. This and other environmental weed species affect many other areas in and around Eurong.

Thank you to Su Dawson and FIDO volunteers for your support, assistance and encouragement. There is still a long way to go, but the battle lines have been drawn.

Article contributed by David Anderson, Fraser Island Association

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