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Students battle gore-geous flame creeper
Sep 28, 2005
Author: Weedbusters

A commendable effort by students at St Peter’s College in Gore is seeing major advances in the battle to eliminate the pest plant Chilean Flame Creeper from popular bush and scenic reserve areas.

The students have been working with the Department of Conservation and the national Weedbusters programme in Southland this year to clear Chilean flame creeper from Croydon Bush and Dolamore Park.

Croydon Bush, about 10 kilometres northwest of Gore, shows what much of Southland once looked like with forest, grassland and scrubland. It borders Dolamore Park, a Gore District Council scenic reserve that includes 95 hectares of native podocarp forest, expansive lawn areas and a range of exotic plantings.

DOC Education Ranger Leanne Keenan says Chilean flame creeper threatens native vegetation, and the effort by St Peter’s College students to eliminate this pest plant is a great help in protecting this reserve.

Chilean flame creeper is a perennial climber with blue/green five-fingered leaves up to about 15 mm across. It can grow to at least 10m tall, and is covered in bright red flowers from November to April. The creeper can suppress and replace native species by shading and smothering. It can also invade endangered species’ habitats.

The creeper produced seed that is spread by birds, but can replicate through its tuberous root system, and is difficult to control.

“The St Peter’s College students helping us bust this weed are mainly aged from 12 to 15. They usually work in their own time on weekends and they always surprise me with their enormous enthusiasm and dedication,” Ms Keenan says.

“The effort is well supported by John Adams, the lead teacher from St Peter's College, and also by the parents,” she says.

“It's great to see young people actively involved in doing something for our natural environment.”

The programme to clear Chilean flame creeper near Gore is supported by the Gore District Council, with Parks and Recreation Manager Ian Soper praising the voluntary effort.

“Residents taking pride and an active role in the betterment of our reserves for the benefit of locals, tourists and the wider community has a benefit to all. Noxious weed control is a very labour intensive process and requires a lot of ongoing follow-up attention after the initial effort,” Mr Soper says.

“The Parks and Reserves Department is receptive to all offers of assistance on this types of work and thanks the Weedbusters programme for getting actively involved and including younger members of our community in this effort.”

Weedbusters is an interagency organisation supported by the Department of Conservation, Biosecurity New Zealand, Federated Farmers, Biodiversity New Zealand, NZ Landcare Trust, Nursery and Garden Industry Association, NZ Biosecurity Institute, NZ Plant Protection Society, and all unitary and regional councils in New Zealand.