Environmental issues

Pests and weeds

Orange hawkweed

Hawkweedsexternal link (Hieracium species) have potential to be serious weeds in the temperate areas of south-eastern Australia, including the Australian Alps and Tasmanian grasslands. Prompt treatment of known populations of hawkweeds has limited their spread so far.

Orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum) is on the Alert List for Environmental Weedsexternal link, a list of 28 non-native plants that threaten biodiversity and cause other environmental damage. Although only in the early stages of establishment, these weeds have the potential to seriously degrade Australia's ecosystems.

Under the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015, all hawkweeds are listed as ‘Prohibited Matter’. Although orange hawkweed had been sold in nurseries in NSW until relatively recently, it was first recorded as naturalised in 2003.

A NSW Orange Hawkweed Strategyexternal link has been developed in consultation with a range of stakeholders to address the above threats and aims to eradicate orange hawkweed from NSW.

Currently in NSW, orange hawkweed is only known to occur in Kosciuszko National Park. Information on the management in Kosciuszko National Park is detailed in:

However, there may also be additional unknown infestations outside Kosciusko National Park as orange hawkweed was used as a horticultural plant in NSW. The NSW Orange Hawkweed Strategyexternal link aims to address this by raising awareness of orange hawkweed statewide.

Hunting Hawkweed volunteer program

Join the hunt for orange hawkweed and help eradicate this noxious weed from the Jagungal Wilderness Area in Kosciuszko National Park. Volunteers are instrumental in protecting sensitive environments, like alpine bogs, from hawkweed invasion, by helping staff find orange hawkweed. The volunteer program runs for 4-6 weeks each summer. 

Read about the 2017-18 season Orange Hawkweed Volunteer Program and join up.

Hawkweed Detector Dogs

Eradication is the most cost-effective and efficient way to manage new weed incursions. But often finding the ‘very last weed’ is difficult, especially for ‘hard-to-find’ weeds like orange hawkweed. Detector dogs can increase the ability to find even the smallest fragment of a target plant, making them a potentially powerful tool to help eradicate weeds. Orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum) is listed as `prohibited matter’ that has the potential to become a serious environmental and agricultural weed across SE Australia. Although a major threat to biodiversity, should this weed reach its potential distribution, losses to the Australian grazing industry alone could be over $48 million/year. Currently in NSW, it is only recorded in Kosciuszko National Park, where a team of over 200 volunteers are assisting Parks staff to eradicate the weed. But eradication is difficult because small, obscure plants often escape detection, thus detector dogs may be able to help.

Detector dogs were critical to the eradication of pest animals on Macquarie Island, and are successfully used to detect foxes, cane toads and endangered birds in natural areas. This project, funded by the NSW Weeds Action Program, is applying these scientifically proven detection techniques (i.e. the highly effective ‘noses’ of detector dogs) in an innovative manner to improve weed eradication. ‘Botanist puppies’, who are officially known as Weed Eradication Detector Dogs (WEDDs), may allow us to ‘sniff out those very last weeds’ and eradicate high-risk weeds, such as orange hawkweed, from NSW. 

This video shows Hillary Cherry, NPWS Weed Management Officer, under the guidance of Steve Austin (Canine Training and Behaviour Specialist ) learning to train Sally the detector dog to find hawkweed.  The video captures one of the first instances in which Sally successfully ‘indicated’ on hawkweed, and as you can see we are very all impressed by what a quick learner she is!


Page last updated: 06 October 2017