News & Media

South West residents urged to keep alert for new invasive shrub

Released on

Released on:
Thursday, 6. December 2018 - 16:15

South West residents are urged to look out for a new invasive weed found in the Balingup region and report any sightings to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is an agricultural and environmental weed, and is toxic to livestock and people.

Department invasive species manager Kay Bailey said the weed had been found on several rural properties, including a pine plantation, and along roadsides in the Balingup area.

“Department officers are working with landholders to remove this weed and prevent it from establishing in Western Australia,” Ms Bailey said.

“Summer is the ideal time for identifying the plant, as it carries distinctive berries and it is important to remove the weed before seed set.

“Everyone can help protect WA from pokeweed, by being alert for the weed and reporting any unusual plants to the department.”

Pokeweed looks similar to inkweed, a widespread weed in the South West, but is taller with larger leaves and with drooping berry stalks.

“It is a large, perennial shrub that grows up to 2.5 metres tall, with bright green leaves (up to 40 cm long) on a smooth purplish stem,” Ms Bailey said.

“White to magenta flowers form in elongated clusters that hang from the branches. Deep purple to black berries form in summer and are the most distinctive characteristic of pokeweed.”

The plant, including the berries, is poisonous and should not be eaten. It should not be handled without gloves.

Birds can spread the weed by carrying the berries.

The department is working with other agencies including Forest Products Commission, Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, Main Roads and the Shire of Donnybrook-Balingup to support surveillance and control activities.

Pokeweed is found in other states including Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, but is not established in Western Australia and is a declared pest.

Forest Products Commission manager of forest management Alan Seymour said the plant had been found on their Balingup plantation and officers were undertaking a comprehensive surveillance program.

“This has been identified as a priority weed and we are committed to taking action to seek out this plant and remove it where found,” Mr Seymour said.

People who suspect they have seen pokeweed should make a report to the department by using the MyPestGuide™ Reporter app, or contact the department’s Pest and Disease Information Service on (08) 9368 3080 or email padis@dpird.wa.gov.au.

More information is available from the department website agric.wa.gov.au search ‘pokeweed’.

Pokeweed plant #1
A pokeweed plant found in the Balingup area. Local residents and landholders are urged to keep an eye out for this toxic weed and report any detections to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

Pokeweed plant #2
Flowers forming on a pokeweed plant found in the Balingup area. Local residents and landholders are urged to keep an eye out for this weed and report any detections to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

Pokeweed berries. Photo by Allen Bridgman, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Bugwood.org
Pokeweed has distinctive deep purple to black berries, which form in summer. Credit: Allen Bridgman, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Bugwood.org

Media contact: Jodie Thomson, media liaison  (08) 9368 3937