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Weed spotter newsletter
Spring newsletter 2020 – Issue number 29

Welcome to the latest Weed Spotter newsletter. In this issue we look at how you can be an active Weed Spotter during 2020, how Agriculture Victoria detected salvinia interstate, working with scientists in Croatia to manage an infestation of horsetails and more. If you have any feedback on this edition or suggestions for future articles, please email:

State prohibited weed wall calendar

Please remember that if you are moving to a new house or changing your employment, the contact details that Agriculture Victoria have recorded for you, including postal address and email address, may need updating. Please send an email to Thank you to those Weed Spotters who completed the State prohibited weed calendar survey. Agriculture Victoria will be producing a wall calendar for 2021, if you would like a copy and didn't respond to the survey, then please send an email to Weed Spotters to secure your copy.

Volunteers needed for research into Weed Spotters

The Victorian Weed Spotters network is an example of a general surveillance program, where people from all walks of life participate in gathering and reporting information about the presence of pests, weeds and diseases. This information makes an important contribution to supporting government and others dealing with biosecurity issues.

The Social Sciences team in Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) are conducting a research project called ‘Making general surveillance work’. They are developing guidelines for policy makers and people involved in running general surveillance programs to support the design, planning and implementation of such programs. In order to develop the guidelines, they are drawing on the practical experience of people involved in several case studies from across Australia, including Weed Spotters. The team would like to hear from anyone involved in Weed Spotters who may be interested in participating in an hour long interview or a two hour focus group in the next couple of weeks, to tell us more about what the program looks like from your perspective.

If you would like more information about the project, or would like to nominate to be on the short-list of participants, please contact Jen Ticehurst (email or phone (02) 6272 3290).

Weed Spotting close to home

This year has certainly been different for everyone and not what Weed Spotters expected 2020 to look like. Much of the year has been spent close to home and the opportunities for Weed Spotting further afield have been very limited.

Image right: Mexican feather grass spotted by a Weed Spotter in a front yard.

Mexican feather grass spotted by a Weed Spotter in a front yard.

This doesn’t mean that Weed Spotters can’t look for State prohibited weeds in their local area, and in fact many of the new reports that Agriculture Victoria receive each year have been found right in people’s local neighbourhoods. If you go for walks or exercise in your local area during restrictions, keep an eye out for State prohibited weeds. You might be surprised what you spot in front yards, gardens or a local park!

The other activity that Weed Spotters can participate in from home is the Weed Spotter online training module. The training module includes photos and videos of State prohibited weeds so that Weed Spotters can become more familiar with these plants. It also describes how to report a State prohibited weed and has interactive quizzes and exercises to help you learn.

If you would like to complete the training please go to and create a log in for the site by clicking ‘sign up’. When creating a new account make sure you select ‘I am a Weed Spotter’ in the ‘Why are you here?’ drop down menu. Once you have created an account you can select Weed Spotter training.

The course takes about an hour to complete but could be shorter or longer depending on how much time you choose to spend reading the material provided. The course can be started and stopped at any time, without losing your place. All Weed Spotters who complete Weed Spotter training receive a set of State prohibited weed identification cards. One Weed Spotter who recently completed the training said, “it was a pleasure and very enlightening”.
If you have any trouble with accessing the training, please send an email to for assistance.

Spreading the word (not the alligator weed!) in Bendigo
Local authorities, land managers and community groups gather round to catch a glimpse of alligator weed in the creek.

Agriculture Victoria has been working closely with local authorities, land managers and community groups in Bendigo to raise awareness of the State prohibited weed alligator weed.

Image left (taken prior to covid 19 restrictions): Local authorities, land managers and community groups gather round to catch a glimpse of alligator weed in the creek.

Of the Victorian alligator weed infestations, only one lies north of the Great Divide, in Bendigo Creek. The infestation threatens to displace local native flora, damage habitat for native animals, clog up drains and other infrastructure, and block water flow. The plant grows rapidly on both land and water.

Bendigo Creek flows through the township of Bendigo, then passes through high value farmland, Kerang’s RAMSAR-listed wetlands and into the Murray River. Alligator weed poses a threat to all of these if it were to spread beyond its current 30 km extent, and cost tens of thousands of dollars more to control.

Local land managers are working to rehabilitate and improve Bendigo Creek, including the Reimagining Bendigo Creek project, however the benefits of these works would be lost if alligator weed invaded the proposed infrastructure, frog ponds and revegetation sites.

To protect the Bendigo Creek system, Agriculture Victoria complements its annual alligator weed eradication program by working with local authorities and community groups to raise awareness of the weed. A series of workshops over recent years have involved presentations, discussions and site visits, where participants learn to identify alligator weed and discuss its potential impacts. Through this engagement, Agriculture Victoria aims to increase the number of people looking for alligator weed and build partnerships so everyone can work together to protect Bendigo Creek and the downstream assets.

If you see alligator weed, or any other State prohibited weed, please report it to the Agriculture Victoria Customer Contact Centre on 136 186 or email To find out more about alligator weed, please visit the Agriculture Victoria website.

Horsetails (Equisetum species) invading a glasshouse – not an easy problem to solve

Recently Weed Spotters received a plea for help from the managers of a glasshouse being invaded by horsetails (Equisetum species), in Croatia! The glasshouse managers contacted Agriculture Victoria after finding information about horsetails on the Agriculture Victoria website.

Image right: Horsetails growing around weed matting in a glasshouse in Croatia.

Horsetails growing around weed matting.

Equisetum is a diverse genus, consisting of about 30 species found in nearly every country, with only Australia and New Zealand lacking native species. Even in countries within their native range, some species are considered notorious pests when they invade agricultural land and gardens, as they can be very difficult to control. Some species have an extensive and deep underground rhizome system that can easily grow under walls, paths and other barriers. If horsetails penetrate up through the floor of a glasshouse or shade-house, they will spread quickly, as there is no competition from other vegetation, and they have access to water and nutrients from the potted plants inside.

Agriculture Victoria were happy to provide advice to our European enquirers, based on our experience in successfully managing horsetail infestations in Victoria, and from our literature searches of best-practice management. But we also needed to provide caveats on the advice we provided, such as:

  • Some of the best-bet chemicals recommended in the international literature may not be permitted for use in Europe.
  • Even if certain chemicals are permitted for use within a country, they may not be permitted for use within an enclosed environment, such as inside a glasshouse.
  • E. ramosissimum, the species of concern in Croatia, is not known to be present in Australia, so we have no experience in treating this species.

Some Equisetum species within this diverse genus are more easily controlled than others. For example, we have found in Victoria that whist E. hyemale is easily controlled by some chemical treatments, the same chemical treatments do not seem to work on E. arvense.

In Victoria, there are no truly naturalised infestations of Equisetum recorded, although some garden infestations have spread beyond the confines of the original infested properties. As at June 2020, there are 23 horsetail sites recorded in Victoria, consisting of one ‘active’ site where horsetails were present during the previous year, and 22 ‘monitoring’ sites that have had no horsetails present for at least a year, so are on track for eradication.

If you see horsetails, or any other State prohibited weed, please report it to the Agriculture Victoria Customer Contact Centre on 136 186 or email To find out more about horsetails, please visit the Agriculture Victoria website

Alligator weed spotted on the Werribee River
Anand always keeps a look out for State prohibited weeds during bush restoration work.

In late April, observant Weed Spotter Anand was working along the Werribee River as part of her natural resource management role at Woods Environmental Services (WES).

Image left: Anand always keeps a look out for State prohibited weeds during bush restoration work.

The team were conducting a site walk as part of a long-term bush restoration project when Anand spotted alligator weed.

Anand took some photos of the plants and sent them to the Agriculture Victoria Weed Spotter email address as quickly as possible. Biosecurity Officers checked the photos to confirm the identity of the plants and arranged to visit the site. The infestation was confirmed as alligator weed and promptly treated by Agriculture Victoria’s contractors.

‘I am very pleased with the prompt treatment, removal and monitoring that is taking place in the area [where the alligator weed plants were found]. This is one of my favourite stretches of the Werribee River and I am grateful that Agriculture Victoria took care of it so quickly,’ Anand said.

This is the first time that alligator weed has been found in the Werribee River, so Anand’s find was very significant to the eradication of this species from Victoria.

Anand has been a Weed Spotter since she attended Weed Spotter training back in August 2013. She has been keeping an eye out for State prohibited weeds since then and was thrilled to be able to help the program by reporting a State prohibited weed.

Anand is originally from the southwest of the USA. She came to Australia to study environmental science with the intention of returning after completing her degree, but she fell in love with the Australian bush. She manages the western depot for WES where she has the Weed Spotters calendar up for the crews to see, and emphasises the importance of flora identification with her staff. She plans to continue looking for State prohibited weeds including alligator weed during the team’s field work.

For more information about alligator weed please visit the Agriculture Victoria website. If you see alligator weed anywhere in Victoria, including for sale online, please report it to 136 186, or

Canny canines on the hunt for hawkweed

Every summer, teams of people scour Victoria’s high country searching for the State prohibited weed hawkweed, and earlier this year Agriculture Victoria recruited some detection experts to follow their noses straight to the source.

Image right (taken prior to covid 19 restrictions): One of the detector dogs working in the field with Parks Victoria staff.

One of the detector dogs working in the field with Parks Victoria staff.

Detector dogs Connor (English springer spaniel) and Sally (cocker spaniel) are skilled in detecting hawkweed and during the summer months they teamed up with Agriculture Victoria and Parks Victoria staff at Falls Creek to hunt for the weed.

The dogs were on loan from New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, who trained them following a successful ‘proof of concept’ trial run by Agriculture Victoria in 2015, that showed that dogs could detect hawkweed and distinguish it from other species. The dog’s speciality is finding hawkweed plants that are hidden from view under other plants, so are not easily seen. Their skills were harnessed to flush out new hawkweed sites and potential spreading on the Bogong High Plains.

Hawkweed can be difficult to detect, especially in the steep terrain and dense vegetation of the Alpine National Park. The species is native to the northern hemisphere and create significant problems, especially at high altitudes, as they out compete native plants and replace natural ecosystems. Hawkweed can cause significant harm in Victoria's high country by restricting the growth of neighbouring native plants through the formation of a dense smothering mat.
It was great to once again use detector dogs Sally and Connor in the annual Victorian hawkweed eradication program.

If you see or have any hawkweed, or any other State prohibited weed, please report it to the Agriculture Victoria Customer Contact Centre on 136 186 or email To find out more about hawkweed, visit the Agriculture Victoria website.

Salvinia seized in New South Wales
The salvinia plants found for sale online during routine surveillance.

An Agriculture Victoria Biosecurity Officer recently detected the State prohibited weed (SPW) salvinia for sale online during routine surveillance of online trading platforms. The salvinia plants were in NSW, so Agriculture Victoria immediately reported it to the NSW biosecurity authorities, who were not previously aware of the plants.

Image left: The salvinia plants found for sale online during routine surveillance.

They promptly instigated compliance activities, which resulted in the seizure of the plants on the very same day as the detection!

Early detection and rapid response are key elements of all pest eradication programs. This is even more important when trade is involved as there is the potential for plants to quickly spread over very large distances, including across state borders. Agriculture Victoria collaborates with other State and Territory authorities to combat illegal online trade of SPWs.

The early detection and remarkably fast response on this successful operation is an excellent example of interstate collaboration in tackling biosecurity threats. Intercepting the sale of these salvinia plants avoided the potential economic and environmental impact posed by this highly invasive weed, not only to NSW, but to Victoria and the whole of Australia. Salvinia is a very difficult weed to manage due to its ability to grow rapidly and spread quickly.

Weed Spotters play an essential role in reporting all State prohibited weeds that they find. If you see salvinia or any other State prohibited weed, including for sale online, please report it to 136 186, or

For more information about the illegal online trade of noxious weeds please visit the Agriculture Victoria website.


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