Parts of Victoria are battling a ‘plague’ that has never spread before.
Invasive cactus weeds that are “impossible to kill” are spreading in regional Victoria, and experts say the growing infestations are worse than they have seen.
Also known as wheel cactus Strong opunia – A native of Mexico and considered highly aggressive since it was classified as Weeds of National Significance in 2012.
This has been a problem in Victoria since the 1950s, but Lee Madd and his team at the Tarring Gover Cactus Control Group claim that the current infestations that are plaguing the state are “the worst they’ve ever seen.”
“It’s like a plague – it’s a complete disaster,” Ms. Mead said.
“The sooner we kill it, the more it spreads, the more we don’t stain it.
“It completely smiles the landscape, it displaces our native flora and fauna, and in agriculture it can completely ignore the viability of the farm – some people have moved away from their farm. It’s bad.”
Her team has been involved with weeds for decades, visiting field days and farms, especially in the Malden area of central Victoria.
Ms. Mead said the weeds had thick, waxy skin that made it difficult to absorb the chemical spray.
“You can dig them up and bury them under a lot of soil which is impossible because it’s too big to manage – plus they are extremely thorny – you can inject herbicides into the plant and it’s actually the most effective way to kill them but that’s it. Incredible labor, time consuming and expensive, ”she said.
“Over the last 20 years, these are the two major areas that have received major infestations – Maldon and Mount Buccaneer – but now they are spreading to other parts of Victoria.”
She said most of the weeds had escaped from the home garden.
“Someone has planted cactus in their garden because they are drought tolerant and they produce really big red fruits and they have hundreds of seeds and the birds love them, especially the crabs,” she said.
“They will eat those things and fly away. They will climb into another tree and drop the seeds and look at the weeds like wildfire.”
Ms. Mead said the seed was viable for at least 20 years.
“It’s like cancer – it’s the worst I’ve ever seen,” she said.
Daniel McLaughlin, regional director of Park Victoria North Victoria, said they were monitoring the spread of weeds.
“Park Victoria works to control where the Wheel Cactus threatens the natural values in the land we manage in North Victoria,” he said.
“We deliver control projects with nearby landowners, local conservation groups and traditional owners, and will continue to work with local communities to manage this issue.”