BIOSECURITY Queensland and Cairns Regional Council officers are conducting surveillance in the Woopen Creek area after finding an infestation of the pest plant Miconia.
Tropical weed eradication project co-ordinator, Mick Jeffery, said this was the first new detection of Miconia in North Queensland in two years.
“An initial survey of the banks of Russell River has found several large Miconia trees, indicating that they’ve been there for many years,” he said.
“As this area is in the foothills of Queensland’s highest mountain, Mount Bartle Frere, there is a high risk that this invasive rainforest tree could spread into the World Heritage area.
“This would have a severe impact on rare native plant species which are only found on the high peaks of North Queensland.
“The timing of the find is quite good though. The plants would have been setting fruit in the next few weeks, which would have been spread by birds if we hadn’t stepped in and removed the trees.”
Biosecurity Queensland and Cairns City Council will be joined by local Wanjurr-Majay indigenous rangers to thoroughly check the area in the coming weeks for any more of the plants.
Mr Jeffery said Miconia was a Class 1 declared pest plant in Queensland and was a threat to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, including the Wooroonooran National Park.
“Miconia is easily identifiable as it can grow as high as 15m with large leaves growing up to 70cm long,” he said.
“Each leaf has three prominent veins and a purple underside and can thrive in rainforests where it forms dense thickets and grows rampantly.
“Miconia has pink or white flowers and mature plants can produce more than 100,000 fruit each year.
“Fruit-eating birds can easily spread hundreds of seeds. But humans can also spread them on vehicles, machinery and footwear. It has the potential to replace native plants and impact on wildlife.
“Plants may still be in backyards and acreages because Miconia was sold as a nursery species in the 1970s and ’80s before it became a declared weed.”
Eradicating Miconia is a nationally cost shared program with the objective of seeking out and removing every last plant in Australia.
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