Fireweed has been established in the eastern escarpment of the Northern Tablelands for many years, but recently New England Weeds Authority (NEWA) biosecurity officers have been noticing Fireweed establishing further west, along roadsides and in paddocks on the Tablelands.
It is a serious pasture weed on the east coast of Australia from Victoria to Central QLD, and isolated areas in inland NSW. It originally comes from south eastern Africa and can take over pastures. Fireweed produces pyrrolizidine alkaloids and livestock that eat it get liver damage, which causes loss in condition and can lead to death. The damage is irreversible and gets worse the more fireweed consumed. Cattle and horses are more prone to this than sheep and goats.
Fireweed is a highly invasive and opportunistic weed which can quickly colonize disturbed areas, including roadside and overgrazed pastures. To reduce introducing new fireweed to your property, do not purchase hay, silage or grain produced in contaminated areas and always check feedout areas and paddocks for fireweed plants.
Fireweed can be controlled through hand pulling (as plants are shallow rooted), chemical application, grazing strategically (sheep and goats can graze for short periods where other feed is available in pasture) and pasture management. The best time to treat fireweed with herbicide is late autumn. This controls the peak numbers of seedlings and young plants. By late winter herbicide treatments are much less effective. A pasture with at least 90% ground cover is far less susceptible to invasion by fireweed.
For help with weed identification and management please contact NEWA biosecurity officer on 67703602, or visit www.newa.com.au.