Rhubarb is all wrong
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.