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Old Man's Beard Eradication Two Month Project

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

16 October 2008 - A huge project to try and combat the spread of the plant pest old man's beard in the Waihi Riverbed on the outskirts of Geraldine, South Canterbury, is nearing completion.

Environment Canterbury senior engineering officer Bruce Scarlett says the project is the biggest yet undertaken in South Canterbury to tackle the climbing plant pest and will amount to about two months concentrated work in total.

Clematis vitalba or old man's beard threatens vital flood protection work along the river, by smothering and eventually killing the trees which have been planted specifically for flood protection and mitigation.

The Waihi riverbed is narrow, unlike the neighbouring Orari or Opihi rivers, and when it floods the water has less room to spread out. The flood protection trees disperse the water and protect the stopbanks, which in turn protect neighbouring property and farmland.

In the area from Coach Road, east of Geraldine and back towards the township, the old man's beard has become so dense, a digger has been needed to clear the weed, Bruce Scarlett says.

The work has involved extensive clearance of infestations in the riverbed and replanting new trees for flood protection. In some cases the digger driver has been able to carefully pull the smothering climber down and save the mature trees.

Old man's beard is a common plant pest in South Canterbury riverbeds and it is a difficult plant to remove completely.

In the case of the Waihi, follow-up spraying of cleared infestation areas will be done next year, to try and eliminate any regrowth.

"It's very labour intensive work, and it's over a period of time. You certainly don't get rid of it in a year," he says. "We spend as much time as we can working on it, when we can."

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