Parkinsonia in flower.

Parkinsonia is recognised as one of the 20 weeds of national significance in Australia.

Parkinsonia: an introduced woody weed

Parkinsonia research aims to develop long-term management strategies which can also be used as a model for understanding other woody weeds in the Australian landscape.

  • 7 December 2006 | Updated 14 October 2011

The problem

Parkinsonia aculeata (parkinsonia) is a woody weed from Central America. In Australia most of its distribution is in remote and sparsely populated parts of northern Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Parkinsonia thrives in diverse climates and habitats and is found on nature reserves, pastoral lands and aboriginal lands. It forms impenetrable thorn thickets and poses a serious threat to riparian, wetland and upland habitats across Northern Australia.

Parkinsonia is recognised as one of the 20 Weeds of National Significance in Australia.

Very little research occurred on parkinsonia prior to 2000, and methods to sustainably manage this weed across the diverse landscapes in which it occurs are not yet available.

Background

A long-term collaborative research program was initiated in 2000 to develop effective management strategies for parkinsonia between:

  • CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems (CSE)
  • Queensland Department of Natural Resources Mines and Energy (QNRME)
  • Northern Territory Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment (NT DIPE)
  • the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA).

Workshops are held annually with the aim of:

  • developing a management model
  • identifying and prioritising research gaps
  • maximising research effort across the organisations.

In 2001 parkinsonia became a project within the Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed Management.

Parkinsonia threatens native habitat across northern Australia with dense infestations preventing humans, native animals and livestock from accessing waterways.

Research priorities

Research is currently aimed at developing better long-term management strategies for parkinsonia. 

Research also aims to use parkinsonia as a model system with which to tackle more general woody weed issues and to better understand interactions between weeds, environment and management in Northern Australian landscapes.

Parkinsonia provides a useful system because it is recognised as a serious weed in Australia, and because it grows in such diverse environments.

A network of permanent study sites was established across Northern Australia by CSIRO and local collaborators in 2000-01 to represent the climates and habitats in which parkinsonia grows.

This research will help to predict the potential impact of parkinsonia across different landscapes, and therefore prioritise control effort. It will also help tailor management to specific landscapes.

In addition QNRME is conducting a large-scale integrated management trial and fire trial (with CSE) in Central Queensland. CSE is also conducting plant physiology and landscape ecological research.

Current research priorities for parkinsonia include:

  • understanding the ecology across varied landscapes in which it occurs
  • predicting seed longevity under different environmental conditions
  • evaluating existing biological control agents to determine whether their impact can be increased, and to assist in the prioritisation of future agents
  • seeking new biological control agents
  • development and application of a parkinsonia management model (in DYMEX, the modular modelling package).

Learn more about the Parkinsonia biological control program.

van Klinken RD. 2004. Workshops proving effective for prickly problem. Weedwatch. 5(2): 7. March 2004.

van Klinken RD. 2004. How important is environment?: a national-scale evaluation of a seed-feeding beetle on parkinsonia, a widely distributed woody weed. In: The Eleventh International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds. Canberra, Australia.