Margaret River landowners winning war against invasive lily

Neil McLeod said his farm, like much of the region, had experienced a devastating influx of Arum lily. Photo: Taelor Pelusey
Neil McLeod said his farm, like much of the region, had experienced a devastating influx of Arum lily. Photo: Taelor Pelusey

Margaret River region residents are reclaiming land from the invasive arum lily, returning previously choked areas to good health and good use.

Sharing his experiences as part of Nature Conservation Margaret River Region's Arum Lily Blitz, Neil McLeod said his farm had been in the family since 1902 but, like much of the region, had experienced a devastating influx of this South African weed.

"Growing up here, I wasn't aware of an arum lily problem," he said.

"I left the area with my family in 1967, and when I came back 13 years ago, it was covered in arum lilies."

Mr McLeod engaged Nature Conservation to guide arum lily control about five years ago and has experienced great success.

"We've had a lot more success with Nature Conservation than trying to do it on our own," he said.

"We're able to cover a lot more country. It's good to slowly get on top of it."

With the farm returning to good health, Mr McLeod is more readily able to indulge his hobby: horses.

Another property owner reclaiming his land is Ray Swartz, who purchased land about nine years ago before discovering that 70 per cent of the land was infested with arum lilies.

"I didn't know much about it at the time, so I bought the property then found out it was a weed," he said.

A self-professed lover of nature, Mr Swartz said he wanted to restore as much of it to native bushland as possible and, with Nature Conservation's support, began control efforts immediately.

In the first year of spraying, about 60 per cent of arum lilies were eradicated and each consecutive year brings more success, with about 99 per cent now gone.

After purchasing land about nine years ago and discovering that 70 per cent was infested with arum lilies, Ray Swartz is reclaiming his property from the invasive weed. Photo: Taelor Pelusey

After purchasing land about nine years ago and discovering that 70 per cent was infested with arum lilies, Ray Swartz is reclaiming his property from the invasive weed. Photo: Taelor Pelusey

"The first time took me about 100 packs (of spray)," Mr Swartz said.

"Now I get it done in about two or three."

Mr Swartz is now pouring huge effort into replanting natives and direct seeding to rehabilitate the bushland.

"I've fallen in love with Country - the trees, the jarrah and marri; the native fauna, the ringtails and phascogale; the diversity, the variety, the colour," he said.

"That's what belongs here."

Nature Conservation project officer Genevieve Hanran-Smith said fertile, versatile land was being rendered useless by arum lilies right across the region, but lauded the likes of Mr McLeod and Mr Swartz for their efforts.

"Ray and Neil demonstrate what can be accomplished with a proactive approach and some perseverance," she said.

"They are just two examples of locals reclaiming their land and we're excited to be seeing success right across the region."

Funded by the WA Government's State Natural Resource Management Program, the Arum Lily Blitz is bringing together local and State Government agencies, environmental organisations, and private landholders for a coordinated, concerted and sustained control effort.

To register for the blitz and get information on when and where to collect free herbicide go to www.natureconservation.org.au or contact Genevieve on 9757 2202.