What is it?

This large, luscious Tahitian interloper has leathery deep green arrow-shaped leaves and thick trunk-like stems, supported by a fleshy underground root system.  Fragrant creamy-yellow to orange flower spikes develop into scarlet or orange berries.  Leaves and stems ooze a sticky milky sap if crushed or cut.

Why is it wicked?

Elephant ear is long-lived, and grows happily in damp sites on most soil type and even in shade, smothering the ground and preventing regeneration of native plants in natural areas.  It's drought resistant once established, and recovers from heavy damage. Seed spread is limited to seeds dropping near to parent plants, and occasional spread by water, but clumps expand slowly through new shoots.

What can you do?

Hand pull seedlings in smaller infestations, and dig out larger plants.  For larger infestations, slash the tops, leave these on site to rot down, and treat the cut stumps with a suitable herbicide.  Foliage of larger infestations can also be overall sprayed.  Check out www.weedbusters.org.nz for more information on control options.

Alternatives are:

If your local climate is suitable, try the native puka (Mertya sinclarii) or Chatham Island forget-me-nots (Myosotidium hortensia).  Non-native alternatives include lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis) and breath of heaven (Ligularia tussilaginea).  Your local garden centre will be able to advise on other suitable non-weedy species for your local growing conditions.

For more information check out www.weedbusters.org.nz