Sandi Notredame is on a one-woman crusade to rid Whangaparaoa Peninsula of moth plant, which she describes as “Auckland’s worst weed”.
The Matakatia resident is a member of Hibiscus Coast Forest & Bird and loves our native species, which, increasingly, she finds smothered by this invasive vine.
At times, the sheer number of moth plants has had her in tears, as she cuts them back, smears Vigilant paste on the stumps and removes the plump seed pods.
“When I found out that each pod contains 1000 seeds, I realised why it is particularly bad and we have to get rid of it,” Sandi says. “It’s important to let people know how bad this plant is, and how to recognise and remove it.”
A year ago Sandi joined the Society Totally Against Moth Plant (STAMP) Facebook page and says in the last six months she must have pulled out more than a million seedlings and cut and poisoned more than 1000 stumps.
She says there are two bad infestations locally – in the area around Gulf Harbour Country Club and in the Zita Ave/Hardley Ave/Roberts Road triangle – but she also spots it in many home gardens, often spreading between neighbouring properties.
Pest Free Peninsula coordinator Pauline Smith of Hibiscus Coast Forest & Bird says this species is a huge problem for the few remnant bush areas that are left on the peninsula and in particular for Shakespear Regional Park.
Moth plant or kapok vine (Araujia sericifera) was introduced to the country as an ornamental plant. It grows vigorously over anything in its path.
At this time of year, the thick, leathery green seed pods (which look similar to edible chokos) dry and split, releasing parachute-like seeds which are dispersed by wind and can reach as far as 30km away.
While Auckland Council will deal with pest plants found on public land, Sandi keeps an eye out for the vines on private property while walking or driving. She knocks on the doors of residents and asks their permission to remove the plants, and says so far everyone has been supportive of her efforts. She often spends 3-4 hours a week finding and removing moth plants.
Sandi admits the job is too much for one person, and hopes that anyone who identifies the plant in their garden will at the very least remove the pods, which must be put in the rubbish, not the compost.
Seedlings pull out easily. Larger vines can be cut near ground level and the stump painted with Vigilant.
The sap is poisonous, a serious irritant and can also stain clothing, so is best avoided.
Info: www.weedbusters.org.nz, or look for STAMP on Facebook.