Cotoneaster – the plant you don’t want for Christmas

It looks festive when its red berries are in season but cotoneaster is an invasive pest that spreads easily and crowds out native species.  That’s why a joint project, allocated funding by the Upper Waitaki Water Zone Committee, has been set up to help stop the spread of this species in the Waitaki Lakes area.

Environment Canterbury, along with the Ohau Conservation Trust, the Department of Conservation and landowners have all been working together to control cotoneaster both in domestic gardens and in farmland.

Rob Carson-Iles, Biodiversity Officer at Environment Canterbury, says the focus of the initiative is on reducing the spread and eliminating the seed source.

“Birds distribute cotoneaster seeds widely and allow it to spread into gardens, hedges, roadsides and farmland.  It matures quickly, is long-living, and crowds out and excludes native shrub species in a wide range of habitats.
“If people have cotoneaster on their property we are really encouraging them to destroy and remove it – so birds can’t eat the seeds and spread it further throughout the Lakes. “

Information flyers and posters have been distributed to town-based audiences and the project team members are working directly with key landowners on farms and stations to help with destroying the weed.

Viv Smith from the Ohau Conservation Trust said it was possible, at this level of infestation, to eradicate cotoneaster from the Waitaki Lakes area.

“Working with others to remove cotoneaster and ensuring it doesn't spread again is an important way to protect and enhance the special natural environment of Lake Ohau.
“The Trust can provide the on the ground ‘eyes and ears’ about the location and extent of spread. Raising awareness with residents and landowners of cotoneaster as a pest plant is also important, and the Trust is using our contacts to do this. “

Improving native biodiversity by controlling invasive species is a key focus for the Upper Waitaki Water Zone Committee.

The Upper Waitaki water zone committee is a joint committee of rūnanga and community members, Mackenzie District Council, Waitaki District Council and Environment Canterbury.

Anyone wanting advice on cotoneaster can contact a biodiversity officer on 0800 324 636 or get in touch with the Ohau Conservation Trust or Weedbusters.