Unmissable coral tree is a red weed destroying waterways and native plants

The fire engine red of the coral tree is unmissable at the moment.
They are everywhere and are particularly virulent outside Lismore on the Bruxner Highway and along the Richmond River at Coraki and Woodburn.
The scarlet flower reflects its bloom into the still river waters and if it wasn’t such am invasive weed, it would be a pretty sight.
The Cockspur coral tree is a deciduous shrub or tree with red flowers that dominates waterways.
It is a South American native that competes with Australian natives by having a negative impact on soil stability and nutrient levels.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the cockspur coral tree leaves can make people feel unwell if eaten.

Coral trees produce a poison that causes a paralysing action, which is why it’s used medicinally to relax the muscles in treating nervous diseases. The seeds of all coral trees (erythrinas) are poisonous and the leaves of some are known to have poisoned cattle.
Cockspur coral trees were grown as an ornamental garden plant until they escaped and found new homes on waterways stretching from Sydney to the Queensland border.
The flowing water moves the pods and seeds of the tree to further germinate along the riverbanks. The seeds can also be moved with garden waste.
NSW DPI said successful weed control relied on follow up after the initial efforts. This means looking for and killing regrowth or new seedlings. Using a combination of control methods is usually more successful.

To manage cockspur coral tree:

remove any trees from gardens
control mature trees to reduce seed production
check for regrowth and control seedlings near mature trees each month for at least 6 months.
Physical removal
By hand
Hand-pull or dig out small seedlings.
Chemical control
Cut stump method
Cut trunks or stems and apply herbicide to the stump within 15 seconds of cutting. Dispose of cut sections or check regularly for sprouting.
Stem injection
Drill, saw or cut with an axe into the sapwood and fill with herbicide within 15 seconds of making the cut.
There is a permit for spraying but only in the Mid North Coast, Northern Rivers and Far North Coast of NSW. Apply herbicide from October to May by foliar application using knapsack or handgun. Only apply to plants less than 4m tall or if using a knapsack, only trees less than 1.5m tall.
Coral trees like the waterways. This photo taken on the Richmond River between Coraki and Woodburn. Photos: Susanna Freymark

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