Paterson’s Curse: Sinister truth behind Canberra’s beautiful Instagram spot
Road-trippers escaping the city have often found themselves entranced by a spectacular wash of purple blooms across a country landscape.
Instagram is packed with photos taken of the brightly coloured plants in various locations all over Australia, and they’re particularly vibrant right now in areas around Canberra.
But to those who know better, this pretty display is not a welcome sight — in fact, it’s something quite sinister.
These purple-flowering plants are an invasive weed known as Paterson’s Curse, and it’s causing havoc in areas of the Australian Capital Territory especially this spring.
Due to a resurgence prompted by this year’s La Nina weather event, ACT Parks is struggling to contain the spread of Paterson’s Curse, which is not only a headache to landowners but is fatal to native plants and animals too, ABC reports.
The plant, which was brought here from Europe, has thrived as it has no natural enemies in Australia and can easily choke large areas of vegetation.
Canberra’s wet winter and start to spring have woken up the plant, which can spend a long time hidden and dormant underground, according to the ABC.
ACT Parks Invasive Plant Coordinator Steve Taylor said invasive plants like Paterson’s Curse are the “number one threat to biodiversity” in reserve areas.
“Invasive plants are high risk weeds and can take advantage of the return of the rain much quicker than the native plants can, so they get a competitive advantage,” he said.
“Because there are no natural enemies keeping them in check, they can grow quicker and then smother the beneficial plants and the native plants.”
Paterson’s Curse plants can cause hayfever in people with allergies but they are even more harmful to animals, especially horses and livestock, who risk death by liver failure if they eat the weed.
The ACT spends about $2.1 million a year managing invasive plants, the ABC reported.
But there’s hope for finally bringing an end to the cursed weed — the tiny Paterson’s Curse Crown Weevil, a bug that eats only Paterson’s Curse, can help limit the spread when their population builds up enough.
Tourists who want to see some stunning blooms that aren’t a threat to the land can find plenty of spots around the country, including places like Cowra in the NSW Central West and Berrima in the NSW Southern Highlands, which boast rolling, golden canola fields that have become huge drawcards for tourists.
But visitors have been asked to not climb into the fields and trample the flowers, which is becoming a problem in some areas.