Saturday, 30 April 2016

Tropical Soda Apple - Solanum viarum WEED

Tropical soda apple is one of the Coffs Coast's more aggressive perennial shrubs. It invades a wide range of positions from open to semi-shaded areas including pastures, forests, roadsides and recreational areas. This weed radically reduces biodiversity by displacing native plants and cultivated grasses therefore disrupting ecological processes.

An erect perennial shrub to around 2 metres high with an upright and much branching habit. It has broad-based, straight, cream-coloured prickles to 12mm long, scattered on most of the plant parts.

The foliage is unpalatable to livestock which enables it to profligate freely on cultivated land. The prickles also restrict grazing by native animals and thickets can create a physical barrier for animals, preventing access to shade and water. The plant plays host to many pests and diseases for cultivated crops and also contains solasodine which is poisonous to humans (although a solasodine glycoalkaloid cream has been used successfully for basal cell carcinoma).

Tropical Soda Apple was first identified in Australia in the upper Macleay Valley in August 2010, however it has been noted that it was most probably in the area for a number of years previous to this. From subsequent surveys there have been infestations found at Bellingen, Bonalbo, Coffs Harbour, Casino, Grafton, Murwillumbah, Wauchope and Wingham. There have been infestations found in the Namoi and Border Rivers/Gwydir catchments - these would most probably be attributed to the movement of cattle from infested coastal areas.

Flowers are white, with five petals, 2-4mm long. They occur in clusters of 3 to 6, off a short stem.

Dispersal is by seed and from root material. Cattle, birds and other animals disperse the seed. Also dispersed by water and contaminated soil and equipment.

Control is by hand-pulling, taking care to remove all plant parts and root fragments or foliar spray with glyphosate.

For a beaut You Tube presentation from Coffs Regional Landcare on the Tropical Soda Apple click here.

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