The rise and fall of Paterson’s Curse pollen

Paterson’s Curse (Echium plantagineum) is a significant invasive plant introduced to Australia from the Old World regions in the 1850s. Paterson's Curse has been a dominant broadleaf pasture weed through much of southern Australia and also infests native grasslands, heathlands and woodlands. It is wind and insect pollinated and produces large amounts of pollen during September to January, peaking in October and November. The pollen has been been linked to allergy risk for rural as well as urban populations.

Recent media coverage of research into the potential toxic impact of Paterson’s Curse pollen on the honey industry has generated comments about the declining amount of this pollen type being present in the environment due to biological control agents introduced in the last few years.

The graph below depicts the cumulative amount of pollen in Canberra’s atmosphere for each season from 2007 to 2015 and shows that Paterson’s Curse pollen abundance has been steadily declining over the last decade. In 2015 we recorded NO Paterson’s Curse pollen in the Spring to Summer count. This may represent a temporary or longer-term collapse of the Paterson’s Curse weed population in the ACT and region. Either way its good news for allergy sufferers and honey producers/consumers alike.

 

Figure shows the cumulative Echium plantagineum pollen load for Canberra illustrated for individual years since recording began in 2007 (Oct-Dec recording period). Echium pollen was found to be absent in 2015.

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