Rhubarb is all wrong

Ruapehu Press - - Your Local News - WAIKATO WEED WATCH

It’s a rhubarb which def­i­nitely rubs you up the wrong way.

The ‘‘gar­den or­na­men­tal plant’’ Chilean rhubarb now fea­tures firmly on the re­gional pest man­age­ment plan’s pest plant list.

Chilean rhubarb has al­ready caused sig­nif­i­cant en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age to parts of the Taranaki re­gion form­ing dense stands which ex­clude indige­nous species.

In the Manawatu-wan­ganui re­gion Chilean rhubarb has spread to bluffs and wet cliffs and along water­ways.

It has his­tor­i­cally been planted in pub­lic and private gar­dens.

While it has been safely man­aged in a num­ber of sit­u­a­tions in the Waikato, Chilean rhubarb is now un­for­tu­nately show­ing the same pat­tern of haz­ardous in­fes­ta­tion it did in Taranaki.

The risks of gar­den es­capees like Chilean rhubarb dam­ag­ing gully and rivers sys­tems is sig­nif­i­cant.

So it’s now des­ig­nated a ‘‘pro­gres­sive con­tain­ment’’ pest. This means landown­ers are re­spon­si­ble for re­mov­ing all Chilean rhubarb on their prop­erty.

Ini­tially in­tro­duced to New Zealand from South Amer­ica be­cause of its in­ter­est­ing form, Chilean rhubarb has mas­sive um­brella-sized leaves.

Stems are cov­ered in rub­bery prick­les and plants have a ro­bust root sys­tem. Tol­er­ant to shady con­di­tions, it can grow al­most any­where, form­ing large in­va­sive clumps that can be three me­tres high.

The clumps shade out other plants and take over whole ar­eas of na­tive habi­tat.

Plants grow vig­or­ously dur­ing spring and early sum­mer. Tiny green flow­ers form on large spikes over sum­mer, and are fol­lowed by tiny red fruit.

The fruit is dis­persed by the birds and a sin­gle spike can pro­duce 80,000 seeds.

If you’ve come across Chilean rhubarb, please un­der­take steps to con­trol it or con­tact Waikato Re­gional Council’s biose­cu­rity pest plants team on 0800 800 401. Ad­vice on con­trol can also be found at weed­buster.org.nz.

-Waikato Weed Watch is sup­plied by the Waikato Re­gional Council.

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