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The Extreme Cactus Control Corp

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Whilst placing controls for a Kooyoora event, Julie Flynn noticed a glade of well establish cactus high up on the northern slopes of the mount. Why don't we clean it up? The issue was raised at the next meeting and Andrew Wallace took on the role of liaising with the local cactus exterminators in the landcare network. The next field day was set for a joint effort between the club and the network.

It was suggested we bring wheel barrows to cart away the juvenile plants. No-one who has been there could imagine getting a wheelbarrow up that slope. This was the first indication that what we had suggested was somewhat more extreme than the network was accustomed to. On the day about ten orienteers and the landcare network coordinator scaled the slopes and spent three hours injecting cactus. The highest infestation was near the top of the mount. The main infestation was mid way up. Scattered plants were found across the slope from top to bottom.

Some wheel cactus natural history:

The first serious wheel cactus infestation in the region was on Mt Bukrabunyule. This is a small granite outcrop on private land north of Wedderburn. The infestation was so dense it was impossible to walk up the hill. From here the seeds were spread by birds to successive granitic outcrops. There have been infestations on Mt Korong, Tarrengower and Kooyoora. If left alone, the cactus would eventually make places like Korong and Kooyoora impenetrable.

Cactus takes three years to seed, and when it does, each fruit can contain hundreds of seed. These seeds are long lived and sit in the soil after an infestation has been cleared. The infestation on Mt Buckrabunyule was cleared nine years ago, but lack of attention has seen the cactus come back.

Orienteers are well placed to find new infestations and to destroy  them. We go places few other people go. It is the out of the way  infestations that can get out of control and provide a seed bank for  the spread of the weed. Every course setter or course runner can note  where they see cactus. We can organise the eradication of isolated  plants without the need for a formal working bee. Larger infestations  will require a prolonged effort and then maintenance. We were unable to  get past the perimeter of the main Kooyoora infestation. The plan is to  return in 6-9 months and make further progress. And the following year  onwards probably.



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