Article by Rhea Phelan, vector and pest plant officer, Sunshine Coast Council
While gardeners have the best of intentions, their actions (or lack thereof) can be responsible for introducing some of our worst invasive plants into surrounding native bushland. This can be by the irresponsible disposal of unwanted plant matter or weed seed dispersal from your garden by animals, dirty machinery or stormwater runoff. This has resulted in both public and private landholders spending significant resources on managing unwanted invasive plants to reduce their environmental impacts.
One example is the dutchman’s pipe vine which was introduced as a garden plant due to its spectacular reddish-purple pipe-shaped flowers. The vine is now an invader of rainforests, riparian areas, roadsides, disturbed areas, bushlands and even plantation crop areas. It also threatens the survival of the endangered Richmond birdwing butterfly (Ornithoptera richmondia), because the dutchman’s' pipe vine emits a smell that lures in the butterfly who then lay their eggs on its leaves. Once they hatch the larvae then feed on the poisonous leaves of the vine.
The flower of the dutchman’s pipe grows up to about 10cm in diameter and it has bright green, glossy, heart-shaped leaves. The seed pods of dutchman's pipe start off green and as they dry out they open up into a basket which releases seeds that are carried by the wind into adjacent bushland areas and further along waterways.
Dutchman’s pipe is considered a high priority invasive pest plant on the Sunshine Coast as identified by industry experts, Landcare groups and through community consultation for the Sunshine Coast local government area biosecurity plan 2017. Residents and other land managers are working hard towards eradicating it from the Upper Stanley, Pumicestone, Mooloolah River and Maroochy River catchments and working to contain its spread in the Mary River catchment area. Council has worked collaboratively with landholders, successfully removing dutchman’s pipe from a number of sites across the coast with ongoing control work currently managing isolated patches in the Pumicestone and Mooloolah River catchments.
The Queensland Government Biosecurity Act 2014 requires everyone to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with invasive plants under their control. This is called a general biosecurity obligation (GBO). Council undertakes biosecurity programs to help residents manage their biosecurity risks and become compliant with the Biosecurity Act 2014. If you have seen dutchman's pipe, please contact council on 5475 7272 to speak with a pest plant control officer.
You can help protect our butterflies and beautiful views and start managing invasive vines like dutchman's pipe at your place. To help build habitat connectivity stick to planting native plants in your garden and you will be rewarded with visits from our wonderful birds and insects. To remove dutchman's pipe pull or dig out plants making sure to remove all roots. For larger infestations cut down the vine before it develops seeds (before summer) and dig out roots or treat them with recommended herbicide listed in the Biosecurity Queensland factsheet - dutchman's pipe. Make sure you remove or treat all plant parts because it can spread vegetatively. The leaves of the dutchmans pipe vine look similar to some native vines which are important food sources for insects so make sure you have confirmed that the plant you have is dutchman’s pipe before you remove it.
Council offers a range of services to help with invasive plant management including free weed control hire equipment such as tree poppers, wick wipers, splatter guns, a mobile spray unit (400L) and knapsack kits.
To find out more and discover what other invasive plant species might be in your area, visit council’s website for more information.
If you are having trouble with identifying invasive plants in your garden you can download the free weeds of South East Queensland App on Apple or Android to assist you. It is very important to correctly identify a plant as a weed before you take it out so you don’t end up removing an important habitat plant.