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African boxthorn blitz targets Tickera’s fragile coastline

News article |

The next round in an ongoing bout with African boxthorn started this month with the Northern and Yorke Landscape Board engaging a team to knockdown the invasive, prickly weed in Tickera’s coastal reserve.

One of Australia’s most widespread weeds, African boxthorn (Lycium ferrocissimum) is an aggressive invader of the coast where it outcompetes native vegetation, forms dense, spiny thickets and harbours foxes and rabbits. It thrives in sandy soils and is often cited as the worst weed in southern Australia.

Funded by the Board’s coastal resilience project called Djulda-wawa Badja, the targeted boxthorn control has been carried out by an experienced weed team along several kilometres of coastal vegetation north of Tickera in the Barunga West Council area.

African boxthorn blitz targets Tickera’s fragile coastline
Tickera local Mick Spencer with Djulda-wawa Badja project manager Janet Moore are part of a combined effort to reduce African boxthorn in the Barunga West Council area.

It is the latest in a series of tactics employed to reduce the declared weed’s impact on a coastal ecosystem under pressure from pest plants and animals, erosion and climate change.

“Tickera’s coastline is fragile and unique, but it faces significant pressures”, said Janet Moore, Djulda-wawa Badja project manager.

“The area provides habitat for shorebirds and coastal wader birds, and a refuge for woodland birds, reptiles and insect species. The cliffs and low dunes are quite susceptible to erosion and damage from off-road vehicles and storms. With the added pressures of climate change, it’s important we make the coast as resilient and healthy as it can be to withstand these pressures into the future.

“Removing the boxthorn will give native plant species like the black oak tree, pearl bluebush, umbrella bush and coast daisy bush space to breathe. These plants that grow naturally along Tickera’s coast provide an important home and food source for the birds, lizards and insects that live there.”

The Tickera community has waged a war against African boxthorn since 2020, with their attention-grabbing Bash-a-Boxthorn initiative, which has raised awareness about the destructive pest. The idea was the brainchild of Mick Spencer, a Tickera local passionate about controlling pest species. “I’ve always had a dislike of feral plants and if caught early, the removal job can be done in seconds,” said Mick.

“Most of us have heard Mum or Dad say, ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ and this applies very well to this issue. If we sit back and let them grow to metres tall and reproduce for years, the job can be tens of thousands of dollars to fix, plus the loss of our native plants that should be growing in that area.”

Mick and his wife Kath have invested many days controlling pest plants around Tickera and have appreciated the support of Barunga West Council, which has supplied chemical and also contracted the removal of other invasive species in the area including bamboo, Aleppo pines and peppercorn trees.

A 2020 woody weed control workshop, run by the Northern and Yorke Landscape Board has equipped residents with safe pest plant control skills and a $5,000 Grassroots Grant in 2022 helped them clean up boxthorns, succulents and other woody weeds in the town and replace them with species native to the area.

In addition, the Board’s roadside weed control program has reinforced the community’s effort by treating roadside boxthorn surrounding the township to help prevent the plant from quickly re-entering the area.

Mr Spencer paid tribute to the collaborative effort between the community, council and the Northern and Yorke Landscape Board. “We have created a successful team effort,” he said. “Together, the Northern and Yorke Landscape Board, Barunga West Council and the Tickera Community and Recreation Association have made a big impact.”

African boxthorn blitz targets Tickera’s fragile coastline
A close-up photo of the thorns and fruit of the African boxthorn pest plant.

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