Heather - Control Guide


Do's and Don'ts of heather control

Heather, photo: Dr. Amadej Trnkoczy

Do's

  • Get in early! Small infestations of heather can be eradicated if they are detected early.

Don'ts

  • Don't plant heather in your garden - use an alternative plant instead;
  • Don't rely on one effort at removal - follow-up monitoring and control will be required to manage the long-lived seed-bank;
  • Don't slash heather - frequent slashing will not kill heather and only encourages re-sprouting;
  • Don't burn heather - this can make the infestation worse.

Spread of heather

  • Heather reproduces mainly by seed. Seed production can reach one million seeds per square metre.
  • The tiny seeds can remain viable for extended periods (up to 100 years) and are spread by wind, animals or walkers brushing against the plants.
  • Vegetative reproduction can also take place via a process known as layering, where branches in contact with moist soil can take root and form new plants. Heather also resprouts from surviving stem bases after fire.

Avoid the introduction of heather

  • Although it is legal to import and sell heather in Tasmania, use of this weed as an ornamental should be discouraged.
  • If you find heather for sale, notify the vendor or state or territory weed control contacts.
  • If you have heather in your garden, remove it and replace it with a non-weedy species. There are many native heaths which may be suitable as replacements.

Physical removal

  • It is hard to pull or dig up heather because of its fibrous root system. Pieces of roots can also break off and regrow.
  • Pulling out the plants can also loosen the soil and release large quantities of seeds, ensuring that heather is usually the first plant to return.
  • Frequent slashing will not kill heather and only encourages resprouting.

Grazing

  • Heavy sheep grazing pressure, especially in spring, will suppress new growth and flowering and may eventually eliminate heather after a number of years. Light grazing is not effective.
  • Large mature plants may have to be slashed first to give sheep access to new shoots.

Fire

  • Do not use fire to control heather.
  • Fire can make an infestation worse as heather requires high temperature for seed germination. Regular burning of heather can increase the dominance of the weed.

Chemical control

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