WIDESPREAD PROBLEM: The common coral tree has spread from garden and street plantings to become an environmental weed.
WIDESPREAD PROBLEM: The common coral tree has spread from garden and street plantings to become an environmental weed. Contributed

Coral tree is a thorny foe

CORAL Tree, or Erythrina x sykesii, is also known as Indian coral tree, Thorny coral tree, or Cockspur coral tree.

Cockspur coral tree is a deciduous shrub or tree to 10m high, originating from northern Argentina, eastern Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.

In Australia it has been cultivated as an ornamental plant but has become invasive along waterways and other wet areas in coastal areas of New South Wales and south-east Queensland.

It has the potential to spread into all rainforest areas along the Queensland coast into north Queensland.

Common coral tree has spread from garden and street plantings to become an environmental weed.

This species does not produce viable seed and only propagates vegetatively, via stem segments and suckers.

Logs, branches and even twigs will grow into new plants and they break easily, thereby aiding its spread during floods.

The spread of common coral tree is often aided by the dumping of garden waste in bushland areas.

It is primarily a problem along creeks and rivers, but will also grow in disturbed natural vegetation and open woodlands. It replaces native riparian vegetation, blocks the flow of creeks, increases creek bank erosion, and causes other trees to fall over.

It is a broadly spreading tree growing up to 6m or more tall. Its stems and trunk are sparsely covered in sharp thorns. Its leaves are divided into three elongated leaflets 3-6cm long and 2-5cm wide.

Its scarlet red to dark red or orange-coloured pea-shaped flowers (30-50 mm long) are densely and tightly clustered at the tips of the branches usually appearing before the leaves in spring. Its elongated, dark brown, sickle-shaped seed pods are slightly constricted between each of the 3-12 shiny mottled or black seeds.

It is well known that you could break off a large branch and just stick it in the ground and it will grow.

Gloves should be worn when removing this plant as it has vicious thorns. Spikes require antiseptic to prevent infection.

To remove the tree, the tree can be injected with 100% glyphosate, and after 24 hours (it is preferable to wait till the tree de-foliates if possible, about six weeks) it is then chopped down, with all pieces removed off site for disposal as above.

If it is too difficult to remove the larger trunks and branches then you should inject these as well. The stump can be re-injected with glyphosate if it reshoots.

While the tree may look dead, the branches can break off and fall, and later re-shoot either on your property or further downstream, creating a worse problem than was originally there. It is important to collect and remove all fallen branches.

Vigilance is required over the next few years. The branches can be chipped, mulched or burned although burning is difficult due to the high moisture content.

It is recommended to drill holes and inject herbicide around the base of large branches as well as the bottom of the trunk to prevent reshooting occurring. If glyphosate is used around water bodies, it should contain an aquatically approved surfactant (frog friendly) e.g. Roundup Biactive or Weedmaster Duo.

The Bundaberg Landcare Nursery at the Bundaberg TAFE College in Faldt St is open on Thursdays and Fridays 10am to 3.30pm. The Landcare nursery phone number is 0466 884 128 for native plant advice.

Phone Landcare President Michael Johnson on 0422 297 062 for weed project details and monthly meeting times, or email bundylandcare@gmail.com.

I am the Regional Co-ordinator for the Queensland Government Weed Network and available on 4159 9365 or email ian.read7@bigpond. com.au to help you identify weeds.



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