Weed Alert: Yellow burrhead
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Contacts and Further InformationIf you find this weed contact your local Council Weeds Officer or the nearest NSW Department of Primary Industries office immediately for positive identification and further assistance.
Alternatively call the NSW Weeds Hotline on
1800 680 244 or send an email to email@example.com
Yellow burrhead (Limnocharis flava)
Yellow burrhead is a perennial aquatic plant that has the potential to become a major weed of freshwater systems in tropical and subtropical Australia.
It thrives in nutrient-enriched water and can quickly colonise shallow wetlands and the edges of deeper waterways, where it can outcompete and dominate other aquatic plants. Yellow burrhead can alter the natural flow of water in channels and drains, causing silt to build up and eventually block water flow.
Unusual foliage and attractive yellow flowers make yellow burrhead an appealing pond plant, and it may have entered the country as a garden ornamental.
In 2001 several small populations were discovered in garden ponds in northern Queensland. All known infestations of yellow burrhead are currently under eradication programs, with infestations still occurring in the Queensland districts of Cairns and Townsville.
Yellow burrhead has the potential to invade and establish in lakes, rivers, dams and wetlands across northern Western Australia, the Northern Territory, coastal Queensland and northern New South Wales (NSW).
There are currently no known infestations of yellow burrhead in NSW and it is banned from entry into Australia.
Yellow burrhead is native to Central America, from Mexico through to Paraguay, northern Argentina and the Caribbean.It has naturalised in the USA, South America, India and south-east Asia. It is a major weed in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Indonesia where it threatens wetlands and has become problematic in rice fields and irrigation channels. Severe infestations have forced farmers to abandon rice paddies.
Yellow burrhead reproduces vegetatively and by seed. Large numbers of small seeds are produced every year. Mature fruit can be produced in as little as 42 days, and then released onto the water surface. The buoyant seeds are released from the fruit and can float to new locations in moving water. Seeds may also be spread by contaminated mud attached to vehicles, footwear, animals and water birds.
New plantlets also develop after a flowering stem loses all its flowers and bends over into the mud. The end of the stem takes root in the mud and develops a new plant or can break off and float away to form a new infestation.
Yellow burrhead is an erect, anchored, perennial plant. It prefers fertile, shallow, still water and can grow up to 1 m above the water surface. In year-round wet conditions it behaves as a perennial and as an annual in areas that are seasonally dry.
Key identification features
- Leaf stems grow in clumps from seed or daughter plants. They are green, triangular and fleshy, and grow to 75 cm in height.
- Leaves are green, with 11–15 parallel veins. Leaf shape varies with age. Leaves are 5–30 cm long and 4–25 cm wide. Young leaves are narrow, broadening and becoming more oval-shaped with age.
- Flowers are three-petalled, small, pale yellow and cup-shaped, growing in clusters of 5–15. Plants flower year-round.
- Fruit is round, up to 2 cm wide and made up of 12–18 crescent-shaped segments. Each fruit can produce around 1000 seeds.
- Seeds are about 1.5 mm long, dark brown and horseshoe-shaped, with obvious ridges.
If you suspect you have found yellow burrhead, immediately contact a local council weeds officer who will assist with identification, removal and eradication.
Yellow burrhead is a Class 1 State Prohibited Weed across NSW under the Noxious Weeds Act 1993. It must be eradicated and land must be kept free of the plant. As a notifiable weed, all outbreaks must be reported to the local council within 24 hours, and the plant is prohibited from sale in NSW.
2006 edition prepared by Annie Johnson and Rachele Osmond; 2013 edition reviewed by Rod Ensbey; edited by Elissa van Oosterhout.
- Hosking JR, Sainty GR, Jacobs SWL & Dellow LL (in prep) The Australian WeedBOOK
- Limnocharis (Limnocharis flava) Fact sheet (2011) Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation.