Winter weed season might seem far off at the height of summer, but Bush Heritage are prepared to tackle the dreaded wheel cactus (Opuntia robusta) at Nardoo Hills Reserve thanks to a grant from the Bank Australia Fund of the Community Foundation for Central Victoria.

Nardoo Hills Reserve protects 1,000 hectares of threatened vegetation communities including grey box grassy woodland, box-ironbark forests and mallee near Wedderburn in central Victoria. The reserve provides vital habitat for a range of wildlife, particularly nationally declining woodland birds.

Wheel cactus, a noxious and highly invasive weed, is problematic in the north central region. When left untreated the cactus can grow up to two meters high and form dense, impenetrable barriers, hindering the growth and regeneration of native flora. The cactus is spread through bird droppings, so it is essential to prevent the plant flowering at around 3-4 years of age.

Dedicated Bush Heritage volunteers spend over 500 hours every year combing Nardoo Hills for cactus seedlings. By treating any seedlings before they have a chance to flower, they prevent seeds being spread throughout the reserve and neighbouring areas. They also work with the Wedderburn Conservation Management Network to tackle infestations in the local district.

Reserve Manager Jeroen van Veen said “The grant from the Bank Australia Fund will provide five new specialized equipment packs for our volunteers to use to treat the cactus with herbicide, which is the most effective way to prevent the spread of this nasty (and very prickly!) weed.”

We would like to thank Bank Australia for their support for environmental protection projects in Central Victoria through their fund with the Community Foundation.