South West residents have been encouraged to remain vigilant against the spread of invasive pokeweed this summer.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development has advised now is an ideal time to identify the poisonous plant (scientific name Phytolacca americana) as it will be showing its distinctive purple-black berries.
Pokeweed, including its leaves and berries, is toxic to both humans and animals and should not be eaten or handled. It is an environmental weed and can also affect agricultural activities by contaminating produce.
Individuals who suspect they have identified the plant should contact the department immediately.
Pokeweed was recently found at Walpole, 180km from the Balingup location where it was first identified in Western Australia in December 2018.
The plant has been found on several rural properties, including pine plantations, private property, government land and along roadsides.
Balingup, Bridgetown and Kirup residents are asked to remain particularly vigilant for the weed.
Department development officer Andrew Reeves said it was important to remove pokeweed plants before their seeds set.
“Seeds can survive in the soil for a long period and can also be spread by birds,” Mr Reeves said.
“The department continues to lead a taskforce to search all potential sites and welcomes the assistance of local residents reporting discoveries.
“We received more than 20 reports from the South West last summer, 16 of which were confirmed as pokeweed and treated.”
Pokeweed looks similar to inkweed, which is widespread in the South West, but grows taller – up to 2.5 metres – and has larger leaves and drooping berry stalks.
It has bright green leaves up to 40cm long on a smooth purplish stem. White to magenta flowers form in elongated clusters hanging from branches.
The department-led taskforce includes the Forest Products Commission; Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions; Main Roads; Blackwood Biosecurity and the Shire of Donnybrook-Balingup.
Images to aid in the identification of pokeweed are available at agric.wa.gov.au
If you suspect you have seen pokeweed, take photos and make a report to DPIRD by using the MyPestGuide™ Reporter app. Alternatively, the department’s Pest and Disease Information Service can be reached at 9368 3080 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Jodie Thomson/Katrina Bowers, media liaison +61 (0)8 9368 3937