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Weeds in the Garden

Weeds are a common problem for all gardeners, as the definition for a weed is a plant out of place. Perhaps you can reconsider some weeds, as they provide habitat and food for many insects and birds. A small weedy undisturbed patch in a sunny area may become a focus of interest to birds for seeds, insects for leaves and flower nectar, lizards for shelter and spiders for food. All of these creatures add interest to your garden, help pollinate fruits and vegetables, and round out your garden to an ecosystem.

In a cleared patch of ground, weeds are the first colonisers, and play an important role in soil erosion control. They also provide some protection for the seedlings of future trees and shrubs.

However, many plants do become a problem, escaping into bushland and taking over native habitat. Weeds are often prolific seed producers and strong, fast growers. Often they get overlooked as they are flowers, but pretty flowers can over run a piece of bushland as well as the more unattractive weeds.

Many weedy plants can be swapped with a similar native, so have a think about the garden effect you want, and perhaps pick a non-weedy plant rather than a known weed. Your local council will be able to give information on specific plants in your area that cause problems. I have described a few below that are common to SE Melbourne.

Some common weeds include blackberry, banana passionfuit, euphorbia, black nightshade, ivy, bridal creeper, cleavers, common purslane, common vetch, violets, cotoneasters, couch grass, dock, holly, flaxleaf fleabane, veldt grass, pittosporum, wall fumitory, salsify and thistles.

Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum)

Fountain grass is an attractive plumed grass with many purple shaded feathery seed heads. It grows to about 1m high, and has become very popular in gardens and commercial plantings. It is drought hardy and seeds itself readily. It is native to open, scrubby habitats in East Africa, tropical Africa, Middle East and SW Asia.

It is however an invasive weed and it has been listed as a weed in Hawaii, the United States and South Africa. It is banned in New Zealand. It has become naturalised in the Northern Territory, Queensland, NSW, Western Australia and South Australia particularly on Eyre Peninsula. It is still sold as an ornamental in Australia.

In NE QLD it has taken over large areas of regenerated minesites and farmlands. It is locally known as ‘collar grass’ in Rockhampton. The story of its introduction is supposed to be that it was used as a stuffing in the leather collars of camels and horses imported from Africa, and spread from this source. While it is excellent in stabilising soil and providing ground cover, it is hard to eradicate and hinders native grass establishment.

(referenced from wikipedia and www.weeds.org.au, photo from weeds.org)

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