Eric Abetz: Beauty can be a beast when foxglove escapes backyards | The Examiner

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Looks can be deceiving. But what on Earth could be deceiving about an English cottage garden – tranquil, colourful, a haven for honey bees with various scents wafting through the air? It’s a place where you could tarry and wish for the world to stop. Paradise on Earth. So why wouldn’t we seek to replicate such an oasis of stress relief in our own garden? Many of us have and replicated such picturesque gardens. But in that array of blossom nirvana often lurks foxglove – a plant which is a noxious weed infesting road verges, agricultural land and our nature reserves. Foxglove, that beguilingly tall plant, with its shaft of dozens of beautiful blossoms neatly nestled in our gardens, has turned from garden beauty to a feral pest. READ MORE: Prime Minister, Treasurer in Tasmania’s North for forestry announcement With its huge shafts of floral beauty comes a seed load which makes it an absolute super spreader. Its toxic foliage has earned it various monikers such as dead man’s bells and witch’s gloves, and the plant nearly earned its license to kill when the toxin derived from it was used to poison James Bond in the film Casino Royale. The toxin can be absorbed through skin, so handling without gloves will leave you shaken and stirred. What’s more, it is likely to be around for a while with seed laying dormant for up to 80 years. Foxgloves’ will to live and thrive is almost inspirational. Correspondence to authorities about this ever-encroaching menace is met with an unfortunate lack of urgency. Words a plenty and action not so much. READ MORE: Why a Tasmanian’s High Court battle could be far-reaching It seems that because it can’t be eradicated focus is elsewhere. Whilst we are busily transitioning the regulation of declared weeds from the Weed Management Act 1999 to the Biosecurity Act 2019, there are to be no new weed declarations. A simpleton might ask why can’t the apparently necessary regulatory transition take place whilst also encouraging those who haplessly or unwittingly (like the writer) harboured foxglove in their garden to remove it as a matter of priority on the basis of good environmental stewardship. Genuine and practical environmentalism always unites our community. Be it removing litter, recycling or removing undesirable plants from our garden will always attract overwhelming, if not universal, community pro-activity. So let’s harness that goodwill. Many Tasmanians (like the writer was) one suspects remain in ignorance of the foxglove’s prolific spread and the need to declare war on it. Tasmanians would help without question. READ MORE: South Launceston’s old Peters ice cream factory could get new use Wouldn’t it be good if all the protesters who sit in trees, block roads and chain themselves to machinery did something practical and helped the fight against foxglove? And how about the keyboard warriors who spread their messages of hyperbolic gloom as prolifically as foxglove spread its seed with the same devastating impact? Local councils in particular could prioritise keeping their road verges clear of the menace. Could Tasrail keep their track verges clear and our highway patrols do the same for our arterial roads? A bit of coordinated community activity goes a long way, irrespective of the project. Is it too much for the authorities to simply ask our gardening folk to remove foxglove or ask our garden shops to not sell seeds or seedlings? You don’t need a regulatory framework to invite volunteer community action by a modest education campaign. Who cares if foxglove fits into a particular regulatory framework when it doesn’t fit into Tasmania’s environmental framework? Having removed the unwelcomed intruders from his own garden this Christmas break, the writer’s fingers have also been busy on the keyboard asking for action from all levels of bureaucracy, including the CSIRO which may be able to help with a biological control called a pug moth. Well worth a “look/see” by our scientists. The war on foxglove needs all the volunteers it can get. There is a good number already who’ve joined the Tasmanian Foxglove Facebook page. We can all do our bit to help stall the spread, if not eradicate, the menace of foxglove. We had a fox taskforce in this State at great expense which found no foxes. How about a foxglove taskforce which will have no trouble finding millions? Foxglove, the beauty turned beast, needs our community’s co-operation to halt its spread. What do you think? Send us a letter to the editor:


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