Arum lily, the “cane toad of the south-west”, choking out native flora and fauna
This elegant flower is often spotted in the landscapes of south-west Western Australia and, while it may look lovely in a bouquet, to locals and conservationists, it is a poisonous weed that threatens the biodiversity.
- Calla lilies are an established weed in southwestern WA and pose a threat to biodiversity
- Margaret River conservationists have worked hard to control the numbers over the past decade
- Approximately $1 million is spent each year by the City of Busselton on weed control
Sometimes called “Death Lily,” calla lilies remain prevalent throughout the Southwest, and locals want more action and education on controlling the weed.
Margaret River Region Nature Conservancy Chair Ann Ward said the weed was the WA South West Cane Toad.
“It’s poisonous to everything – it’s a terrible, terrible weed.”
“We’ve been working for over 10 years now with significant funding to address the calla lily issue, but also to educate people, empower them to do something about it.
“I would like to see our program extended. I think we have a very good model that can be delivered elsewhere.”
The “Arum Lily Blitz” program, which officially began in 2019, has seen more than 1,500 landowners in the Augusta-Margaret River area get involved in weed management and spraying.
Landowners can access chemical spraying in small quantities free of charge through the Margaret River Nature Conservation Region.
“It’s the best outcome we’re looking for – we’re really trying to restore biodiversity [in this] biodiversity hotspot,” Ms Ward said.
“I think it’s our responsibility as stewards of this land that we are all blessed to live on.”
Entrepreneur and Margaret River resident Rick Ensley said there needed to be more incentives for private landowners to manage weeds, similar to legal requirements for maintaining firebreaks.
“You do your firewall or you get fined,” he said.
“Previously, the Agricultural Protection Office would come to your land to check your blackberries or arums if you hadn’t – [and] you received a fee and you were billed for it.
“That’s the kind of mechanism we should be looking for.”
Vasse sheep farmer Graham Stuart told ABC Breakfast presenter Stan Shaw that more research needed to be done on effective weed control methods as access to some areas was difficult and took time.
“We really need to start seeing alternative methods of spraying them,” he said.
“I’ve been doing it for 15 years and I’m starting to worry about the chemical resistance.”
No more boots needed on the ground
Anyone who has driven along the Bussell Highway will tell you that the arum lily grows far beyond the Margaret River area – the weed has been seen as far away as Albany.
The City of Busselton spends approximately $1 million of taxpayer dollars each year on weed control.
Mayor Grant Henley said any additional funding from the state government would be welcome, but there is also the issue of a lack of manpower.
“At the moment, there is also the reality that even if we were to get funding, we just don’t have the manpower,” he said.
“In an ideal world, you could go and throw away 3, 4 or 5 million dollars to temporarily eradicate many of these weed species, but the reality is that we don’t have those resources and we don’t have that level. funding.”