milkwort (Polygala myrtifolia)

Size: 
1-1.5m high.
Form: 
Shrub
Natural Distribution: 
Native to South Africa.
Description: 

Milkwort is a relatively new weed along our foreshore. It is referred to as a 'sleeper weed', as it was previously a benign garden plant, but owing to a change in natural events, it has started spreading to our bushland areas. It is rapidly invading our coastal areas, often in places where vegetation is sparse. It seeds prolifically, with hundreds of seedlings successfully germinating from one small adult plant.

Milkwort produces purple pea flowers in spring which develop into seed pods in autumn.

Milkwort occurs in many places along the foreshore, including the Belhaven foreshore reserve, the High School bushland, in Illawong Reserve and most commonly along the Alum Cliffs track, just south of Hinsby Beach. There is also an out-of-control infestation on the temporarily closed section of the Alum Cliffs track, at the coastal end of the Shot Tower gully.

The name polygala is greek for the words: polys: much; gala: milk. The plant secretes a milky substance, hence its common name "milkwort".

Unfortunately, milkwort is promoted and sold in many mainstream nurseries as it grows easily in most soil types, in full sun to semi-shade

Dispersal:  The seeds are spread by ants, water, birds and in contaminated soil. 

Control:  Young seedlings can be easily handpulled. Mature plants must be cut and pasted. Persistent follow-up is required as the seeds remain viable in ground for many years. Cut plants can be left to rot on-site. Seed-bearing branches must be bagged and removed.