Paterson's Curse and Viper's Bugloss

(Echium plantagineum) and (Echium vulgare)
Paterson's curse flowers, photo: Kiowa Fenner Viper's bugloss flower, photo: Kiowa Fenner
Images L-R: Paterson's curse & Viper's bugloss, © K Fenner, DPIPWE.

What are Paterson's curse and viper's bugloss?

  • Paterson's curse (Echium plantagineum) and viper's bugloss (Echium vulgare) are significant pasture weeds in Tasmania, and both weeds can be toxic to stock.
  • Paterson's curse and viper's bugloss are declared weeds under the Tasmanian Weed Management Act 1999. The importation, sale and distribution of Paterson's curse and viper's bugloss are prohibited in Tasmania.

How to identify Paterson's curse and viper's bugloss

  • Paterson's curse is an erect plant around 60 to 90 cm high. Seedlings appear in autumn and develop into a rosette (a flat whorl of leaves close to the ground) in winter. One or several flowering stems are produced in late winter and flowering occurs in spring. Flowers are trumpet shaped and usually blue/purple, but may be pink or white.
  • Viper's bugloss is similar to Paterson's curse, although the flowering stems are more branched and are usually shorter, and the flowers are slightly smaller and generally darker blue.
Paterson's curse, photo: Kiowa Fenner Paterson's curse flowering, photo: Kiowa Fenner Paterson's curse rosette, photo: Kiowa Fenner
Viper's bugloss flowers and rosettes, photo: Kiowa Fenner Viper's bugloss, photo: Kiowa Fenner
Viper's bugloss rosettes, photo: Kiowa Fenner
First three images above: Paterson's curse, © K. Fenner, DPIPWE.
Next three images: Viper's bugloss, © K. Fenner, DPIPWE.

Paterson's curse and viper's bugloss in Tasmania

  • Paterson's curse occurs in all agricultural areas of Tasmania as small scattered infestations. It is most common near old homesteads, on housing blocks in suburbs, in rural areas where poultry are kept, and along roadsides.
  • Viper's bugloss is less common in Tasmania and is generally restricted to dry banks in the south of the State.

What is the legal status of Paterson's curse and viper's bugloss in your area?

What you need to do

If you locate Paterson's curse and viper's bugloss anywhere in Tasmania, or if you find a plant that you think could be Paterson's curse and viper's bugloss, immediately contact Biosecurity Tasmania on 03 6165 3777 to report this weed.

Detailed management and control guidelines for Paterson's curse and viper's bugloss can be found in the Paterson's Curse and Viper's Bugloss Control Guide. For further information see alsoDPIPWE's Weed Links and Resources.

See also
Herbicides for Paterson's Curse and Viper's Bugloss Control
Statutory Management Plan for Viper's Bugloss
Statutory Management Plan for Paterson's Curse
Weed Links and Resources

Other useful links
Pest Genie
APVMA

Paterson's Curse and Viper's Bugloss Control Guide

Do

  • Plan your control program, this will save time and money in the long-run;
  • Consider the impact of your control methods on off-target species, especially if herbicides are used;
  • Ensure machinery and equipment is washed down between sites or prior to contractors leaving site;
  • Get in early - For new infestations, eradicate before the plants reach the flowering stage: once plants begin seeding, control becomes more difficult and expensive;
  • Carefully time your use of herbicide for best results (see Herbicides for Paterson's Curse and Viper's Bugloss control for more information);
  • Coordinate your control program with neighbouring landholders where your weed problem crosses property boundaries;
  • Revisit and regularly inspect the site and ensure follow-up is undertaken.

Don't

  • Don't introduce Paterson's curse or viper's bugloss to Paterson's curse/viper's bugloss-free areas (e.g. by failing to wash down machinery and equipment between sites or in contaminated seed or hay);
  • Don't start your control program without first planning your approach;
  • Don't allow Paterson's curse or viper's bugloss to flower and set seed before treatment;
  • Don't rely on one attempt at removal - follow-up is essential;
  • Don't leave flowering plants on the ground as the seed may still mature on hand-pulled, hoed or cut plants.

Spread of Paterson's curse and viper's bugloss

  • Both Paterson's curse and viper's bugloss are spread by seed. Seed can be spread after ingestion by grazing animals and birds, as well as attached to the coats of animals.
  • Seed is also spread by water and by earthmoving equipment, particularly along roadsides. Seeds are not spread by wind.
  • Seed of Paterson's curse may remain dormant in the soil for up to six years although most will germinate within two years.

Physical removal

  • Hand hoeing, pulling, and cutting can be used to remove isolated plants provided the growing tip and the top 20 to 40 cm of the tap root are removed, otherwise regrowth may occur.
  • Flowering plants should be destroyed because seed may continue to mature on hand-pulled, hoed or cut plants.

Cultivation

  • Both weeds can be controlled in arable areas by cultivation, especially if followed by cropping with either root or cereal crops, or establishment of a vigorous smothering pasture.

Grazing

  • Heavy grazing can be used to control Paterson's curse. Sheep are the most effective grazing animals to use. Grazing should be carefully managed given the potential for Paterson's curse to cause liver damage.
  • Grazing should be concentrated when plants are young, continued at regular intervals during the year and concentrated again at the end of the year when plants are flowering.
  • Plants that escape grazing should be hand-pulled or cut to prevent seeding.
  • Viper's bugloss is less palatable and is not so effectively controlled by grazing.

Biological control

  • Biological control is the use of a living species, usually an insect, mite or disease, to control a weed;
  • The biological control agent Dialectica scarlariella was released in Tasmania but has failed to establish field populations. Other agents are available from the mainland and will be considered for release in Tasmania in the future.
  • For more information on biological control programs in Tasmania contact the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture.

Chemical control

  • A number of herbicides are registered for use on Paterson's curse and viper's bugloss in Tasmania. (see Herbicides for Paterson's Curse and Viper's Bugloss control for more information).
  • In years when there is an early autumn break and large numbers of Paterson's curse germinate before the temperature falls, autumn spraying can be very effective.
  • The use of a wiper applicator where the Paterson's curse is reasonably uniform in size can overcome the problem of damage to desirable pasture legumes using boom spraying.
  • For effective herbicide control, plants must be growing actively. Plants subject to stress due to waterlogging, drought or low temperatures are less susceptible to herbicides.

Herbicides for Paterson's Curse and Viper's Bugloss Control

Herbicides for Paterson's Curse and Viper's Bugloss Control


Important Disclaimer
To the extent permitted by law, the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (including its employees and consultants) excludes all liability to any person for any consequences, including but not limited to all losses, damages, costs, expenses and any other compensation, arising directly or indirectly from using information or material (in part or in whole) contained on this website.

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