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17 February 2021 Partner Release

Narrow leaf cotton bush (Gomphocarpus fruticosus) is a highly invasive weed and a declared pest in Western Australia. It aggressively out-competes native and agricultural plant species, posing a major threat to food systems and the natural environment.

CSIRO ecologist Dr Karen Bell said cotton bush is one of the most concerning emerging weed threats to the South West of Western Australia.

"CSIRO and SWCC are calling on members of the public and landholders to report cotton bush infestations through a smartphone app, MyPestGuideTM Reporter, available on the App Store and Google Play.

"Data submitted through the app will help us develop new control methods to prevent the spread of this noxious pest." Dr Bell said.

In order to develop more effective methods of controlling cotton bush, more information is needed about:

  • The impact, spread and distribution of cotton bush in South West WA
  • Which subspecies are present throughout the region (depending on their native range)
  • Natural enemies of cotton bush in the environment.

Cotton bush originates from southern, eastern and north-eastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Although rarely deliberately grazed, it is toxic to livestock and can causes sickness and, in extreme cases, death. It grows in dense thickets up to many hectares in size, limiting the growth of other species and preventing livestock from grazing.

Cotton bush seeds feature a tuft of silky hairs which carry them away in the wind, and they are easily spread by contact with animals, humans and vehicles. Once an area of land becomes infested, it can be costly to treat and difficult to remove. Areas with mature infestations of cotton bush can be permanently unavailable for agriculture and become a reservoir of wind-dispersed seed that can invade nearby pastures.

Areas of cotton bush infestation can be reported quickly and easily on DPIRD's MyPestGuideTM Reporter. The app also provides postal addresses for samples of the plant, which will provide data about the location of sub-species. Detailed instructions on how to use the app to report cotton bush can be found here.

Cotton bush is easy to identify when mature. The shrub grows to two metres high, has drooping clusters of small cream/white flowers and distinctive puffy air-filled seed pods up to six cm long, and is sparingly covered with soft bristles. For more information on how to identify cotton bush, visit the DPIRD website.

If you have cotton bush on your land, it is important that you manage infested areas through appropriate treatments to prevent further spread. If you fall within a Recognised Biosecurity Group's (RBG’s) operational area, they may be able to assist you to manage cotton bush. Please contact your RBG for more information. Learn more about your RBG here. General management techniques are available here.

This media release was first published: Calling WA landholders and community to help detect and control cotton bush


Close up of a narrow leaf cotton bush plant’s easily identifiable seed pod. Credit: DPIRD.
Narrow leaf cotton bush (Gomphocarpus fruticosus) is a highly invasive weed that’s toxic to livestock. Credit: DPIRD

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