“The potentially huge impact of this weed on biodiversity and production across Northern Australia cannot be underestimated”

This has been the key message from Victoria River District Conservation Association’s coordinator Rhys Arnott, in working to control the spread of Bellyache bush across the VRD. Bellyache bush (Jatropha gossypiifolia) is classified as a Weed of National Significance and is regarded as a serious threat to both biodiversity and production values in the NT as it can form dense monocultures; crowding out native species and greatly increasing mustering costs for pastoralists. Also, as its name suggests, this isn’t a plant that’s fit for consumption and all parts of the plant are toxic to native animals, stock and humans.


While preventing establishment is always the easiest method to stop a weed’s spread, in areas where it is already well established the next approach is controlling infestations and keeping on top of any regrowth. Out on Willeroo Station, 130 kilometres south-west of Katherine, the VRDCA has been working hard to control and reduce the spread of this weed. Willeroo has been identified as a strategic ‘top of catchment’ location and therefore managing Bellyache bush in this area is regarded as an extremely high priority. Rhys Arnott has overseen the control of this weed over thousands of hectares – in many instances in high value grazing areas of black soil flood out country. The dense monocultures that are formed by this plant along waterways can spread out for over a kilometre from the banks which, for the people involved, means slowly and methodically targeting creek and drain lines across hundreds of kilometres from RTVs equipped with 300 litre spray units.


This project has been made possible through funding from the Federal Government’s Caring for our Country programme, assistance from the Weeds Management Branch and a large amount of in kind support from Willeroo Station. It is hoped the VRDCA will continue to see the same success as in previous years for this project.