Capeweed is an invasive plant species that is widespread across Australia. This fast-growing weed can quickly take over lawns, pastures, and crops if left to grow out of control, making it a hassle or even a hazard for landowners. Capeweed can also become poisonous to animals under the right circumstances, which is a particular concern for those with livestock.
In this blog, we’ll explore everything you need to know about capeweed, including how to identify it, its impacts on crops and stock, and how to effectively eradicate it to minimise potential damage to your property and livelihood.
How to identify capeweed
Also known as the cape daisy or cape dandelion, capeweed is an annual herb that is most prevalent during the spring and summer months. The most striking and easily identifiable feature of the capeweed is its yellow, daisy-like flowers. It is also typified by its deeply lobed leaves, spear-shaped flowers, and dark purple-black centres.
Capeweed is a fast-growing plant and will sprawl to cover the land it is inhabiting with many of its bright, seemingly cheerful flowers – however, as we know, this weed is capable of much more harm than good, and its looks are most certainly deceiving, like many other flowering uncultivated plants.
Where is capeweed found in Australia?
Capeweed is commonly found in many regions across Australia, including Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania. It grows in a broad range of habitats and conditions, making it difficult to control and eradicate. You may find capeweed infiltrating lawns, pastures, crops, gardens, and non-agricultural areas such as roadsides and railway lines. Capeweed prefers well-drained soils, and can tolerate both wet and dry conditions, but thrives in a Mediterranean-style climate in particular.
Why is capeweed a problem in Australia?
Invasive and highly competitive, capeweed has created a significant problem in many southern parts of Australia. Capeweed impacts agriculture and the natural environment in a number of ways that all farmers or landowners should be aware of.
Capeweed is a fast-growing weed and can quickly spread to take over large areas of land. This is because the plant’s deep taproot allows it to survive in dry conditions, and it produces large quantities of seeds that can remain viable in the soil for several years. Not only does this make capeweed very difficult to control, but it can also contribute to the spread of other weeds and invasive species.
This plant can reduce the productivity of pastures and croplands by creating competition with other plants for resources like water, sunlight, and nutrients.
Capeweed has been found to have negative environmental impacts here in Australia. It can reduce biodiversity by outcompeting native plants, and it can also alter soil chemistry and affect nutrient cycling. Capeweed can also contribute to soil erosion, particularly on steep slopes.
High management costs
Managing capeweed infestations can be costly and time-consuming. Potential control measures include herbicides, manual removal, and mowing, all of which require resources and expertise. Because of capeweed’s tendency to spread rapidly, it is challenging to control with such measures once established, and as a result may demand even more time, energy, and money.
The impact of capeweed on livestock
Capeweed can also negatively affect livestock in a number of ways, which is why it is imperative to control this weed if you have and rely on stock. Here are a few impacts to consider.
Detriment to nutrition
Capeweed has low nutritional value and can reduce the quality of forage available for livestock as a result. The plant is quite palatable to animals when it is young, making it an easy yet detrimental choice for livestock. Capeweed becomes less palatable as it matures. If capeweed makes up a significant portion of an animal’s diet, it can lead to poor or stunted growth and low productivity.
Capeweed has been known to cause toxicity in livestock in some cases. The plant contains alkaloids, which can cause liver damage and create photosensitivity in animals. Livestock that consume large quantities of capeweed may show signs of jaundice, weight loss, and decreased milk production.
Reduction in available forage
If left uncontrolled, capeweed may compete with other plants and subsequently reduce the amount of nutritional forage available for livestock. This can significantly lower the stocking rate on pastures, as well as leading to lower yields in crops.
Capeweed seeds can contaminate animal feed, which can then lead to the spread of the weed to new areas of pasture. The seeds can also be transported in manure, which enables a greater spread of capeweed across farms and grazing lands.
Due to these many factors, effective management strategies are essential to controlling capeweed infestations and mitigating its impacts on the environment, agriculture, and animal health. Keeping capeweed at bay will save time and money, and improve your pastures and livestock performance overall.
Three effective methods to remove capeweed
If you’re dealing with capeweed on your property, there are a number of effective ways to remove and eradicate it. The right method for you will depend on the size and type of area you are dealing with, and how much capeweed growth is present.
Manual removal of capeweed
If you only have a small land area to treat, such as your lawn or garden, then a highly effective method to eradicate this weed is through manual removal. This involves pulling the capeweed out of the ground by hand or by using a garden tool. It is important to pull out the plant roots in their entirety and dispose of the weed properly to avoid any regrowth. This is a suitable way to get rid of capeweed in small quantities, however, it is not recommended when dealing with significant growth.
If you’re dealing with smaller quantities of capeweed in your lawns, mowing regularly will help control – but not eradicate – growth. Mowing capeweed removes the weed’s flowers before they seed, and discourages further growth, stopping the plant from reaching maturity to produce more seeds. This is important, as we know that seeds are responsible for spreading the weed.
Herbicides for capeweed control
Using herbicides is the most effective and lasting way to control capeweed infestations, particularly if you have a large area to cover or are dealing with significant capeweed growth. Herbicides are chemical solutions that are sprayed directly onto the capeweed plant. The solution is then absorbed into the plant, eventually killing it.
When using herbicides, it’s essential to use a herbicide registered and approved to remove capeweed in the specific environment you are dealing with, whether that be pastures, non-crop situations, or in a cropping environment. If you are using a herbicide in waterways or wetlands, be sure to select a chemical that is suitable for dispersion in these vulnerable natural areas. If you require additional information, here at Specialist Sales, we offer all this key information and more in each product’s herbicide label on our website.
There are a number of safe and effective herbicides on the market designed to eradicate capeweed. Each of the herbicides we recommend has been registered to use on capeweed in pasture, cropping, lawn, and garden environments.
MCPA 750 herbicides are designed for the selective control of over 80 broadleaf weeds, including thistles, fumitory, radishes, and of course, capeweed. The mode of action of these herbicides is plant cell growth disruption, which causes the plant to die off.
Dicamba 500 and 750 herbicides control certain broadleaf weeds, including capeweed in winter cereals, pastures, conversation tillage, sugarcane, turf, rice, and non-crop areas. These herbicides are registered to control over 130 broadleaf weeds. These products are exceptionally effective at controlling hard-to-kill plants in particular.
Bromoxynil 200 herbicides control weeds across a broad range of settings, including in turf, wheat, oats, barley, cereal rye and triticale (alone or undersown), grain sorghum, linseed, clover, and lucerne pastures; fallow; non-crop; roadsides; and rights of way.
Triclopyr 750 herbicides are effective at eradicating various woody and broadleaf weeds, including capeweed, in agricultural areas, non-crop areas, forests, industrial or commercial areas, pastures, and rights of way.
Finally, glyphosate 450 herbicides offer non-selective control of many annual and perennial weeds in various situations. They are effective against over 130 weed species, including capeweed.
We advise using wetting agents, adjuvants, or penetrants in conjunction with your chosen herbicide to ensure the chemical sticks to the plant. These products enhance the uptake of the herbicide into the plant, allowing them to effectively penetrate into the leaves without causing any damage to non-target crop plants. This ensures more effective eradication by the herbicide because no one wants to have to spray twice!
Like with any weed, prevention is the best medicine – ensuring a weed never appears in the first place is the only foolproof way of guaranteeing it doesn’t spread! One way to do this is to maintain your crops, pastures, lawns, and/or gardens as effectively as possible. This includes proper watering, fertilising, and regular moving practices. Additionally, you can prevent capeweed growth by not overgrazing pastures or by leaving the land fallow.
It’s crucial for all farmers and landowners to acknowledge capeweed as a highly invasive species that requires consistent management to eradicate. Whatever method you choose to keep capeweed under control, it’s essential to monitor your efforts consistently to ensure the best results.
Specialist Sales has been helping farmers, livestock producers, and garden enthusiasts for years, supporting them through the management of difficult-to-kill weeds such as capeweed. If you need assistance understanding how to maintain weed growth on your property, we’re here to help – get in touch with us, or visit our website to explore our wide range of agricultural supplies and tools.