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Toxic pimelea plant is on the rise west of St George

Pimelea growing west of St George on the Bollon Road.
Pimelea growing west of St George on the Bollon Road. Peter Carruthers

A WETTER than average winter this year has contributed to the rise of the toxic plant pimelea west of St George.

The pimelea plant is an Australian native whose abundance and range is difficult to predict and difficult to mitigate against.

The active toxin in pimelea is called simplexin and can be ingested by cattle eating the plant and also by them inhaling the pollen.

At the moment pimelea around St George is in flower.

Symptoms of pimelea or St George's disease include swelling of the jaw and brisket, diarrhoea, rapid weight loss, a rough coat, breathing problems and decreased appetite.

John Scriven of QMDC said there was no way to determine whether the plant would cause headaches for graziers.

"It's one of those things that can happen at any given time," he said.

Although right now Mr Scriven said he had not heard many reports of local cattle suffering pimelea poisoning but there is no disputing this year the plant is abundant west of the Balonne River.

"Landholders really need to be checking their stock."

"The first signs for cattle are black scour, then swelling under the jaw and the brisket," he said.

Mr Scriven said the plant preferred lighter, red country and didn't like shade or competition from other plants.

Which meant when growing as a companion to buffel grass - which it is west of the Balonne River - the pimelea takes over as the buffel grass dies off during winter.

Mr Shriven said a broad leaf 2; 4-D herbicide could be used to kill pimeloma.

Herbicide trials conducted in Bollon and Roma in 2007 and 2008 indicate 2,4-D and 2,4-DB were effective in eliminating pimeloma trichostachya and pimelea elongata.

The 2,4 -DB is twice as expensive as the 2,4-D but its use may be warranted as its impact on pastoral legumes is minimal.

Mr Scriven said he had not heard of any plans to spray for pimelea in the Balonne Shire.

Pimelea poising can occur at any time of the year but is most common between August and January - problems for cattle can occur when pimelea amounts to a small proportion of the available pasture.


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