Weeding out the space invaders

Camphor laurel invasion at the The Sanctuary, Forster.
Camphor laurel invasion at the The Sanctuary, Forster.

They don’t come much worse than the camphor laurel tree, labelled 'ecosystem changers' by the MidCoast Council natural systems team.

Introduced from parts of Asia during the early 1800s, the team says the plant invades neighbourhoods, crowding out native species and forming a single-species community.

A garden escape plant, camphor laurels have invaded significant areas across the Mid Niorth Coast and can be found on street verges, along roadsides, in native bushland, rainforest edges and gaps, moist open woodlands, pastures, and especially the banks of watercourses.

Considered a noxious weed throughout Queenslandand and central to northern NSW, the plant is on the MidCoast Council’s hit list for removal.

It also is in the sights of the Hunter Regional Strategic Weed Management Plan.

In NSW camphor laurel trees are estimated to be negatively affecting at least 25 endangered ecological communities, along with 13 threatened plant and four threatened animal species.

They have even been listed on the Global Invasive Species Database (GISD 2005).

"There are so many camphor laurel trees, and they are so well-entrenched in some areas, that we need to approach the problem strategically," MidCoast Council strategic weeds biosecurity officer, Terry Inkson said.

"This means, that over the coming years and decades, we will be prioritising control measures to protect areas with high natural ecological value."

The Gloucester area is a high priority for camphor laurel control to assist in the protection of significant natural areas including the Gloucester River catchment.

Recent camphor laurel management efforts include a project at Gloucester Park.

Camphor laurel invading native vegetation.

Camphor laurel invading native vegetation.

"Approximately 80 trees along the river and through the park were removed and it was necessary to poison trees before removal to prevent re-establishment from resilient root systems,” Mr Inkson said.

Following the removal of the camphor laurels, 215 native trees and shrubs have been purchased for planting to re-establish this natural space.

"We made good use of the camphor laurel wood from the trees that were felled,” Mr Inkson said.

"Salvage timber was removed by 'Ironwood' from Pampoolah for reuse and Gloucester locals also received cut timber for woodturning. 

“The smaller branches were chipped for reuse in parks as mulch."

The NSW Biosecurity Act states that landholders have a 'general biosecurity duty' to prevent, eliminate or reduce weeds such as camphor laurel that pose a biosecurity risk.

If you think you have camphor laurel on your property, contact Terry Inkson at MidCoast Council on 6591 7222 for advice.

The management of camphor laurels in Gloucester and across the MidCoast region will be ongoing for a number of years.

For more information on MidCoast Council's weed management strategies, visit midcoast.nsw.gov.au/weeds.