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Declaring new weeds will help protect agricultural and environmental assets

Declaring new weeds will help protect agricultural and environmental assets

Biosecurity Tasmania is in the process of declaring new weed species in Tasmania. Many of these species are from the Erica plant genus.

Erica is a genus of just over 800 species, mostly from South Africa (about 85 per cent), but also from the Mediterranean, Macaronesia and Europe. They are often referred to as heaths.

Erica species are evergreen shrubs and sometimes small trees. They don’t occur naturally in Australia, but with their attractive flowers, have been introduced here almost exclusively as garden plants.

Being hardy in infertile soils, low rainfall, and extreme cold environments, Erica species readily adapt to Australian conditions. In some instances this has led to them becoming serious environmental, and to a lesser extent, agricultural weeds.

Erica species have been recorded as weeds in places including Europe, North America, New Zealand and Australia. More than 30 species of Erica are recorded as being weedy and/or naturalised (outside their natural range), somewhere in the world.

Six Erica species are naturalised in Tasmania, but only one of these, Spanish heath (Erica lusitanica) is declared under Tasmania’s Weed Management Act 1999.
The other species are tree heath (E. arborea), besom heath (E. scoparia), berry heath (E. baccans), water heath (E. caffra), and E. holosericea (no common name).
Of these, besom heath is of primary concern locally as it has established in Tasmania and has serious weed potential in the state. It is so far relatively restricted in distribution in Tasmania, having been identified on a 300ha patch near Launceston.

With Spanish heath and besom heath in particular, as weeds, they are very suited to Tasmanian conditions. Biosecurity Tasmania has also risk assessed related species (many not yet recorded in Tasmania).

Where a high weed risk was determined, declaration as weeds is proposed. This effort assists in preventing the entry of these species and puts Tasmania on the front foot to better protect our environment and agricultural assets.

More background information on the identified weed varieties, together with details about an invitation for public comment on the proposed weed declarations can be found on the DPIPWE website.