Tropical Soda Apple invades Urbenville

The tell-tale fruit of the Tropical Soda Apple plant. (Photo: NSW WeedWise)
The tell-tale fruit of the Tropical Soda Apple plant. (Photo: NSW WeedWise)

The invasive plant Tropical Soda Apple is under attack by Forestry Corporation in partnership with Local Land Services, Department of Primary Industries, local councils and weed authorities.

The weed, which hails from Brazil, is mainly spread through flooding and livestock feeding on the mature fruit, and had invaded parts of Yabbra State Forest in the Urbenville area.

Acting District Manager, Peter Walters, said Forestry Corporation worked with Local Land Services, Tenterfield Council and Rous County Council to sweep through known problems areas in Yabbra State Forest. At the same time Forestry Corporation crews and Clarence Valley Council also tackled the weed working through sites in the Grafton area.

“The Tropical Soda Apple is a nasty weed and one we are working hard on controlling and eradicating,” Mr Walters said.

“Working side-by-side with other agencies, we have tackled this weed in two state forest locations last week. It is great to see a combined approach managing this weed on a landscape level.

“When we find a Tropical Soda Apple plant, we mechanically remove it or spray it with herbicide and take a note of its location so we can check it hasn’t re-established when we return for future inspections. Last week, work also involved removing fruit from already sprayed plants to curb any further spreading of this weed. 

“Another sweep is planned for 2-3 months time and we hope to undertake four operations over the next 12 months to keep on top of this weed.

“We report the results back to the North Coast Weeds Advisory Committee, which we’re an active member of as tackling issues like weeds really does require community partnerships to deliver positive results.”

The Tropical Soda Apple plant is making incursions into Tenterfield Shire. (Photo: NSW WeedWise)

The Tropical Soda Apple plant is making incursions into Tenterfield Shire. (Photo: NSW WeedWise)

NSW DPI says Tropical Soda Apple (Solanum viarum) is an aggressive, prickly, perennial shrub 1–2 metres high that invades open to semi-shaded areas, particularly pastures and riparian zones, but also forests, roadsides, recreational areas, and horticultural and cropping areas.

Its foliage is unpalatable to livestock, thus reducing carrying capacities, however cattle eat the fruit and spread viable seeds in manure. Thorny thickets of this plant create a physical barrier for animals preventing access to shade and water. The plant is a host for many diseases and pests of cultivated crops, and it contains solasodine which is poisonous to humans.

If not controlled a few plants will form a hectare-sized thicket in six months, with each plant producing 150 fruit containing 45 000 seeds each year. Herbicides kill the plants, but do not kill the seeds inside the fruit. The DPI says in NSW it is critical to achieve site-based eradication of this plant before it becomes widespread. 

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