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Pretty purple but what a curse!

News release
03 November 2020

Posted 03 November 2020.

The toxic weed salvation Jane or Paterson’s curse, (Echiium plantagineum) is making a dominant come back in the Murraylands and Riverland region, and across the state.

The combination of drought leading to bare ground and a reasonably wet spring has created the perfect conditions for salvation Jane to awaken.

Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board District Manager Kylie Moritz said wet weather caused by La Niña this year has led to a huge resurgence of salvation Jane, which we have not seen for many years.

“The seed is long-lived and can remain dormant underground for up to five years, which means many landowners might not even be aware that is it on their property,” she said.

Salvation Jane is a significant weed, which quickly becomes the dominant species, out-competing pasture, and impacting native vegetation and does not provide any benefit to the landscape.

“While biological controls have been very successful in decreasing salvation Jane previously, the lack of the weed for the biological control to feed on has reduced insect numbers.

“The recent weather has provided the perfect growing conditions and an opportunity for the weed to germinate and flower in the absence of large populations of the biological control insects.

“With the weed now flourishing the biological control insects will also flourish, but will need time to increase their population numbers.

Ms Moritz said rest assured the biological control insects are on the increase.

“We have seen crown weevils, flea beetles and pollen beetles about so the insects are still there doing their job,” she said.

“It takes a while to build up in number when there is an outbreak of salvation Jane, but eventually the biological control will get the upper hand again.

Established plants are toxic to livestock, particularly horses and pigs, and can result in severe health issues.

While biological controls have been very successful in decreasing salvation Jane like any weed it requires ongoing monitoring.

“The use of a variety of control methods, including biological control is usually the most successful,” Ms Moritz said.

The biological control for salvation Jane includes various agents which need continual population build up over time and attack different parts of the plant;

  • Leaf mining moth (leaves)
  • crown weevil (rosettes)
  • flea beetle (roots)
  • root weevil (roots)
  • pollen beetle (feeds on flowers and developing seed).

One single plant produces more than 5,000 seeds which quickly grow and develop a large taproot making them resistant to drought. They form a flat rosette, which assists them to outcompete other plant species.

The seed can spread by contaminated hay and grain, livestock droppings, machinery and birds. The use of cultivation can also stimulate seed germination.

The same with mowing or grazing the flowering plants, this encourages new shoots to flower out of season.

In 1985 salvation Jane was estimated to occur on over 30 million hectares in Australia. By 2002 it had cost the wool and meat industries $125 million each year.

Salvation Jane is a declared plant in South Australia under the Landscape South Australia 2019 Act.

For more information about salvation Jane contact your nearest Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board office or visit the Biosecurity SA website and refer to the weed control handbook.

The program is supported by the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board through funding from the Landscape Levies.

More information

Media and Communications Project Officer