Watch Out for this Weed: Blue Heliotrope

31st Mar 2020

Blue Heliotrope is a native of South America and is a major agricultural weed in in New South Wales. It is a hairy, summer-growing, prostrate perennial herb, 15–30 cm high and 30–200 cm in diameter. It competes with desirable pasture plants and causes toxicity in stock as it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids. Blue Heliotrope is not very palatable to livestock and tends to be avoided, but will be eaten if there is no other feed available. Continual ingestion by livestock of large amounts of Blue Heliotrope plants or seeds (fresh or dried), can cause liver damage and reduced productivity. All affected livestock species may become jaundiced and experience varying degrees of photosensitization. In order of susceptibility, horses, pigs, cattle, sheep and goats can all be affected. 

Blue Heliotrope flowers largely start in November and continue through summer until March. It can reproduce from seed and root fragments. It produces many sticky seeds that adhere to animals and machinery where seeds pass unharmed through the digestive tracts of most animals. It is most commonly spread by road graders, farm machinery, livestock, humans and movement of water along watercourses. The plant is susceptible to frost, where it dies off in winter and regenerates from vigorous root system in the following spring.

Blue Heliotrope occupies more than 110 000 hectares in New South Wales. It is extremely drought hardy and adaptable to a wide range of soil and climate types. It is often found along roadsides, in waterways, on non-arable country, in degraded pastures and on fallowed cultivation. Over the past decade, Blue Heliotrope has spread into the New England Tablelands area.

Currently NEWA is monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will continue to follow the advice of State and Federal Health Departments. Our focus is to maintain good service levels while protecting our community. Our Council office will be closed to the public and staff are rostered to ensure social distancing guidelines are adhered to. Contact us by phone and we will assist you as best we can.

For help with weed identification and management please contact any of New England Weed Authority’s Biosecurity Officers on 02 6770 3602, Follow the NEWA Facebook site or visit www.newa.com.au.

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