Introduction

The Department of Conservation with weed buster Woody Weed made a big impression in Pukawa last weekend.

The Department of Conservation with weed buster Woody Weed made a big impression in Pukawa last weekend. Woody gave out native trees to a big crowd of local kids last Saturday as a reward for handing in samples of wanted weeds, and helped the Pukawa Wildlife Trust to get their message across that exotic garden plants have escaped into the neighbouring native forest where they have become weeds.

Sixteen children took to the streets with their parents and Woody Weed with ‘Plant Me Instead’ books. These books identify what weeds are of concern to the district, which enabled the children to find the weeds. The challenge was to find six weeds, which would be swapped for a native tree. One team found twenty weed samples from the footpaths of Pukawa. Local pest plant expert Kevin Loe said “Some of the children found samples of weeds that I wasn’t even aware were in Pukawa”. These extra efforts were rewarded with Weedbuster t-shirts. The day was also supported by Environment Waikato, and the Department of Conservation.

There were six weeds of particular concern to the Pukawa Wildlife Trust who are guardians of the local native forest. Weeds that have started to stake their claim on the native plants of Pukawa are the artillery plant, wandering Willy, buddleia, common ivy, periwinkle and the cotoneaster species. Organiser Jean Stanley explained “I wanted a day of fun where the children and their parents would gain an understanding that although weeds start their life innocently in gardens, they escape over the fence competing for light and space with the native trees”. The ‘Plant Me Instead’ books identify problem plants, and suggest alternatives that look like the problem plant, but do not grow as aggressively in New Zealand.

One of the children found an oxygen weed plant in the water at the edge of Lake Taupo. The children learnt about the dangers of aquatic plant pests from an entertaining show put on by Department of Conservation Didymo Dave. He also taught the children how rubbish thrown in to the environment quickly becomes rat food. He talked to the children about how the rats are trapped. This message also complemented the main volunteer work of the Pukawa Wildlife Trust, which is to trap rats living in the native forest which protects the local native bird life. 

If you would like a copy of ‘Plant Me Instead’, please email amcknight@doc.govt.nz

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