By Brynn Mathews

Bellyache Bush (Jatropha gossypifolia) is a suitable element for the worst nightmare, or if creating the meanest, most invasive weed possible, was your aim.

Ingesting the plant, or even part of it, is highly toxic to both animals and humans, and cattle consumption of the weed is responsible for significant stock losses.

Bellyache Bush invades riverbeds, banks and and broader riparian zones, thriving on natural or man-made disturbance.  It forms thickets so dense, it has been known to threaten the survival Rubber Vine, by literally choking the vine out.

Seedpods explode when ripe, throwing seed up to 13m from the host plants.  The weed reproduces vegetatively from stem cuttings or from plants forming from removed plants that remain insitue, allowing the pest to spread readily in the typical wet season floods of the Mitchell catchment.  Seeds also travel in soil or sand clinging to vehicles or machinery.

It is possible that the pest plant was spread by human movement,  from the Palmer River, where there is a main infestation, to a new sites to Emu Creek in the upper Walsh River catchment.

The control of this weed needs your support.

Bellyache Bush control programs have been initiated by the Tableland Regional Council (trc.qld.gov.au), in the upstream reaches of the Walsh catchment and by the Cape York Weeds and Feral Animals Program (CYWFAP), in the Palmer catchment.

TRC staff is working on established areas of Bellyache Bush along the Walsh River.  How far downstream the weed has spread has not been determined. 

The best help for the project is residents learning to identify Bellyache Bush and reporting outbreaks.

The most effictive way to stop the spread of Bellyache Bush is to destroy juvenile plants before seed formation. If young plants are sighted, the best treatment is to pull them from the soil, break the stem and place the plant on exposed rocky ground in the fork of a tree. It is important to break the stem to dry out the plant, preventing root formation.

Find out how to identify and report Bellyache Bush.

Contact Brynn Mathews at the Mitchell River Watershed Management Group on 0413 112 719, or email brynn@mitchell-river.com.au