What is a weed, environmental weed or invasive plant?

A weed is any plant out of place. It is especially a plant, which when away from its natural habitat or original natural location, starts to grow in excessive numbers. In some cases these plants may out compete the plants which are local and natural to an area, these are environmental weeds. In other instances they may spread from a garden or planted area and start to spread away from where they were planted, these are known as invasive plants.

A weed, invasive plant or environmental weed is any plant which is behaving badly!!

How are weeds spread?

It is important to consider what you grow in your garden as weedy plants may spread to areas outside of your garden in a number of ways:

* By natural means:
   - if the seed is fine it may be picked up by the wind and blown
   - if the seed has a barb, prickle or sticky surface it may attach to birds, animals, clothing or in mud on boots and be carried to a new location
   - the seed or fruit surrounding the seed may be food for birds, these seeds pass through the bird and come out the other end complete with a ball of nutrient to help them grow
   - all seed may be washed to a new location when it is raining.

* By people:
   - people who haven't thought through the problems they are creating, may dump plant material and lawn clippings over their back fence, or
   - may plant that odd plant which has become a problem to them, like a Christmas tree, in a natural area
   - people caring for the environment by working in a natural area or bush walkers may spread seed if it has become attached to their socks or in the mud on their boots.

* By vehicles:
   - mud attaching to tyres of cars, trucks and farm vehicles may carry seed and drop it in a new location.

Being aware of these problems may help us to stop the spread of weeds.

Methods for weed removal

Control of Small Hand-pullable Plants

Control of Vines and Scramblers

Control of Woody Weeds

Control of Weeds with Underground Structures

Thank you to National Trust, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and Australian Association of Bush Regenerators for use of their Weed Control Method pages.

Some useful tips

If you are not sure if a plant is a weed or not:
- take a sample to a nursery, your local authority or botanic gardens for identification
- remove any seed before it has a chance to spread.

Find out if there is a local volunteer group working in a natural area near you. By volunteering you will learn to identify many weeds and native plants and feel good about helping preserve some of our natural heritage for our children and grandchildren.

Before selecting new plants to plant in your garden do a little research. A plant that is known to be a weed in other parts of the world has a high probablity of becoming a problem plant for you too. If a plant is a vigourous grower or produces large amounts of seed it is likely to make more work for you in your garden as well as having the potential to spread. Careful selection may save you work in the long run and help protect the environment.

Before removing a weed you should also consider whether it is being used as habitat or if it is providing some valuable service within the landscape. Maybe some native plants, which can provide the same or similar service, should be planted and grown nearby before removing the weed.

When using herbicide always follow the manufacturers instructions.

Back to Web Weed Lookup introductory page