Be on the Lookout for Cats Claw Creeper

Cats Claw Creeper in flower
Cats Claw Creeper in flower

Yellow is not mellow with Cats Claw Creeper!

Spring is a time when flowers of all shapes and sizes burst with colour and following early spring rain some areas of the Bellinger valley will be seeing yellow. The very attractive Cats Claw Creeper (Dolichandra unguis-cati), is just coming into full bloom with its vibrant large bell like yellow flowers reaching high in the canopy and on or near a riparian strip.

Cat’s Claw Creeper is an aggressive woody vine native to Tropical America. The Creeper climbs fully established trees choking out light and weighing the tree down eventually killing it, very few vine weeds have this habit of killing its host. Cats Claw Creeper has vigorous root and tuber systems impacting on kilometres of riparian vegetation in hot spots nationally resulting in severe environmental degradation.  It poses a serious threat to the riparian areas of the Bellinger Valley.

Bellingen Shire Mayor Mark Troy said “Cats Claw Creeper was introduced approximately 100 years ago into rural NSW and Queensland as a low maintenance ornamental creeper with the ramifications of this decision being largely unknown at the time.”

After the splendour of flowers die back, long bean like seed pods with dozens of winged seeds perfectly designed to fly long distances and spearhead into the base of a tree, shed or fence post will form and rapidly climb and creep. The month to fear for many Cats Claw Creeper free areas is February when these seeds are preparing to take flight.

In our backyards Cats Claw Creeper can smother sheds, stock shelters, fences & basically any non-living object. In the environment the Creeper prefers alluvial soils and riverbanks forming dense ground layers suppressing natural regeneration which impacts biodiversity, riverbank stability and food sources for fish.

“Cats Claw Creeper is a Class 3 noxious weed in the Bellingen Shire and has been included by the Australian Government on the weeds of national significance list. Simply preventing the vine from climbing up trees and stopping it from seeding will do a lot to reduce its spread to nearby areas”, added the Mayor.

Council is currently working with landholders to control Cats Claw Creeper and is conducting inspections around the Bellinger Valley targeting prime growth areas including areas of high environmental value. According to the NSW Noxious Weeds Act 1993 the control requirements for this weed is ‘The plant must be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed’, therefore local weed service operators are assisting in control of Cat’s Claw Creeper on public lands.

“Council is encouraging all landholders who have Cat’s Claw Creeper on their property to control these weeds before the plants set seed again in Summer and assist in preventing the spread of this noxious weed throughout the Shire” added the Mayor.

If you are unsure please contact Council’s Invasive Plants Officer on 6655 7300 to assist in identifying any plants that you think may be Cat’s Claw Creeper. Information on how to manage this weed on your property can also be provided’.