A New Weed in Town

    A New Weed in Town


    Republished from the Wanaka Sun 8th December 2023.

    There is a new weed in town with the potential of becoming a “ticking timebomb”, according to Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture. 

    Actually, it has been here a while but is now starting to be noticed near Albert Town and Mount Iron.

    It is the Chilean Mayten (or Maiten) and comes from parts of Chile and Argentina that are similar to NZ, so it feels quite at home could take a large slice of our paradise for its playground.

    It is well equipped to run amok. It produces attractive orange/red seed for the birds to disperse and because it is happy growing in very low light to full sun, Mayten will colonise the understorey of open native bush (and exotic trees), scrub and grassland.

    Once established it has another trick up its sleeve — it suckers aggressively, rapidly forming colonies from which to launch the next take-over. Lovely!!

    Outrage - how did it get here??? Who do we blame???

    The simple answer, blame ourselves. We are the ones who love to buy new plants. What appears to be a new plant with horticultural merit turns out to be another Jekyll and Hyde.

    Chilean Mayten is longlived, hardy, drought-tolerant and typically grows to 6-8m but cangrow to 20m plus.

    As a youngster it resembles the native Narrow-leaved Mahoe (Melicytus lanceolatus) and blends in well with native plants so is hard to spot.

    As a mature tree it is graceful and has a similar appearance to a weeping willow (salix babylonica).

    A male clone was first introduced in 1881 to Canterbury and was commercially available from Duncan & Davies in 1929.

    It was propagated vegetatively by pulling up root suckers. About the mid-1980s, seed-grown plants started to appear on the market. Some of these were female and seed began to be dispersed and the spread began.

    It has taken over 130 years for the problem to take root. Chilean Mayten is now classified as an “unwanted organism” under the National Plant Pest Accord in 2012.

    It is registered in Canterbury and Southland but not in Otago.

    To understand the potential threat Chilean Mayten poses, check the link below to an article by Murray Dawson, Manaaki Whenua-Landcare Research, where he describes what happened on a Waimate farm.

    Chilean Mayten is difficult to eradicate and requires a concerted, systematic approach.

    We have observed the plant at nine different locations around Albert Town and Mt Iron. Most of these are on private property. There will be other sites we don’t know about.If you suspect you have this plant or have seen it, please contact the Upper Clutha Wilding Tree Group. We are happy check it and help eradicate it before it takes off.

    Arne Cleland is a horticulturalist and volunteers for the Upper Clutha Wilding Tree Group. Contact him at info@uppercluthawildingtreegroup.co.nz .

    MORE READING: https://www.rnzih.org.nz/RNZIH_Journal/Pages_28-32_from_2016_Vol19_No2.pdf



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