The weed that’s not dan­de­lion

NZ Lifestyle Block - - CONTENTS - MIL­TON MUNRO is a soil and plant sci­en­tist for ru­ral sup­ply com­pany PGG Wright­son. He looks at com­mon pas­ture weeds on blocks and how to deal with them.

I’M NOT SURE what sort of year you’ve had so far but down here in the south it has been pretty rough.

Now, I know what you’re think­ing: it’s al­ways rough down south. But that is only a fab­ri­ca­tion to keep you all from mov­ing to the promised land of South­land.

So far in 2016 it has been too wet and too cold, then too hot and too dry, but there is al­ways a sil­ver lin­ing; when the sea­son does funny things the usual weeds strug­gle and the weird ones come out which is ex­cit­ing stuff for some­one like me!

This month’s weed is not a weird weed per say, but it is very weird to find it so preva­lent in South­land pas­tures. I’m talk­ing about catsear, a com­mon weed that is of­ten con­fused with quite sim­i­lar-look­ing weeds (hawk­bit, hawks­beard, and dan­de­lion).

Catsear ( Hypochaeris rad­i­cata) is a com­mon weed found all over New Zealand. It’s orig­i­nally na­tive to Europe but has spread to most of the western world, and is a mem­ber of the daisy fam­ily.

I can’t talk about catsear with­out men­tion­ing dan­de­lion be­cause in many cases the two plants are con­fused with each other. It’s so com­mon, one of the al­ter­na­tive names for catsear is false dan­de­lion. Like dan­de­lion, catsear is com­pletely ed­i­ble to peo­ple. You can try the leaves and the roots, although per­son­ally I find catsear to be a lit­tle taste­less – give me the earthy bit­ter­ness of dan­de­lion any day.

How to con­trol it

Con­trol­ling catsear is very de­pen­dent on where it is. If you have ac­cess to sheep they will eat it out of a pad­dock quick smart – they love it – but if you don’t have ac­cess to the woolly he­roes then it gets harder.

There are some her­bi­cides that can be used (such as Ver­sa­til), but these need to be used pre-flow­er­ing and carry some ma­jor fish­hooks such as clover dam­age.

The best method of con­trol is to never let it get a foothold and we do this by en­sur­ing we have the best per­form­ing com­pet­i­tive pas­ture. This means good fer­til­ity and not dam­ag­ing the pas­ture dur­ing wet or dry times of the year.

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