The beautiful purple hue appearing in paddocks everywhere might remind you of the picturesque lavender fields of Provence in France. However, this local version must not be mistaken for such.
Echium Plantagineum, commonly known as Paterson’s Curse, Riverina Bluebell or Purple Viper’s-Bugloss, is an invasive weed that is extremely harmful to livestock. Rumoured to have been named after the Paterson family of Cumberoona, NSW who planted it in their garden in the 1880s.
The weed’s poisoning symptoms range from loss of appetite, abdominal swelling, weight loss, diarrhea, constipation and sleepiness to death due to liver damage.
While livestock tend to ignore Paterson’s Curse, contaminated hay bales or feed is more often to blame for the consumption of this toxic weed. In 1988 and 1994, the CSIRO released moths, root weevils, flea beetles and two more types of beetles in South Australia which is said to have significantly contributed to the decline in the abundance of the weed. In human’s the plant can cause skin irritation, so give this smiling assassin a wide-berth when you come across it.
By Alexandria Irvine