DISTINCTIVE: The fruit of the invasive Brazilian cherry, Eugenia uniflora.
DISTINCTIVE: The fruit of the invasive Brazilian cherry, Eugenia uniflora. Contributed

Garden plant has gone wild

EUGENIA uniflora is native to tropical South America (i.e. Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and northern Argentina).

Brazilian cherry (Eugenia uniflora) is sold as an ornamental hedge and fruit tree but is regarded as a relatively important environmental weed in south-eastern Queensland, where it appears on the list of the top 200 environmental weeds.

Brazilian cherry is also regarded as an environmental weed or potential environmental weed in the coastal districts of central and northern Queensland and the coastal districts of northern New South Wales. It is also found on Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island.

This introduced garden plant has escaped cultivation and is readily dispersed into natural areas by fruit-eating (iefrugivorous) birds, and other small mammals. It is spread by humans in dumped garden waste, the fruit and seeds by slashers, and in contaminated mulch and soil.

The fruit can float in water and spread along the banks of watercourses.

Once the fruit or seeds are deposited into bushland areas, the seedlings quickly grow in thickets to become an invasive plant. It is a weed of rainforests, open woodlands, forest margins, urban bushland, gardens, roadsides and riparian vegetation.

Brazilian cherry is able to displace native species by outcompeting native plants for light, space, water, and nutrients.

Eugenia uniflora can form dense thickets that outcompetes native shrubs and ground covers, reduce the amount of light that reaches the forest floor, and change the micro-environment of invaded habitats.

The dense nature of the foliage can also prevent native plant seedling regeneration and allow many other invasive species to invade, further decreasing the natural diversity of forests or natural areas.

Brazilian cherry is an evergreen tree which grows to about eight metres, has brown stems, dark green glossy leaves, and reddish new growth.

Leaves usually occur in pairs.

They have rounded bases and are dark green, glossy, aromatic and growing to 5cm long.

Small scented white flowers have four petals, are solitary and about 1cm across.

They occur in early spring and summer-autumn.

The fruit is about 2cm across, dark red in colour and grow to about the size of a normal cherry. The berries are deeply ribbed into eight segments - giving them a distinctive identification feature. They set fruit in autumn and ripen in spring.

The fruit is used in cooking in some cultures for jams.

Seedlings have a long tap root which makes hand pulling difficult unless the soil is quite moist.

Hand pull seedlings and young plants holding the plant close to the ground to remove the whole plant along with its roots. Plants can also be dug out using a digging tool, taking care to remove all roots and runners.

Do not leave the pulled plants on the moist ground and destroy all plant material to prevent rooting and reinfestation.

Monitor frequently and remove any new plants. Mowing large patches of Brazilian cherry seedlings will not prevent the plants re-sprouting and will increase stem density.

Aggressive mechanical tillage is also effective. however, soil disturbance may stimulate seed germination from the soil seed bank.

On large plants applying herbicide by cut stump, or scrape the bark on the trunk and apply chemical methods are effective.

The glossy leaves require a wetting agent to make the herbicide stick on the foliage.

Several systemic herbicides (eg glyphosate and triclopyr) move through the plant to the roots when applied to the leaves or stems and have been found to be effectively on Brazilian cherry.

 Article writer Ian Read can be contacted 4159 9365, or email ian.read7@ bigpond.com.au for free weed identification and native plants advice, and for landscaping and weed control.

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

The Bundaberg Landcare Nursery at the Salvation Army Tom Quinn Centre, Doctor May's Rd, is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 10am-4pm for native plants.

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