Paterson’s Curse (Echium plantageneum)

Paterson’s Curse or Salvation Jane: Echium plantagineum L.
Vipers Bugloss: Echium vulgare L.

Family: Boraginaceae

Growth Habit: Paterson’s Curse starts off as a large, flat rosette of slightly hairy leaves with well marked veins. One or several flowering stems are produced in late winter and flowering occurs in spring.

Flowering stems can grow to be 600-900 mm tall. These uncoil with new flowers at the tip and developing seeds protected by bristly husks further down the stem.

Viper’s Bugloss is similar to Paterson’s curse, although the flowering stems are more branched and are usually shorter, and the flowers are slightly smaller and generally darker blue. Viper’s Bugloss is less common in Tasmania and is generally restricted to dry banks in the south of the State. No infestations have been recorded in the Tamar

Type of Plant: Herbaceous annual or short lived perennial.

Flowers: Deep blue to purple, 20-30 mm long with five petals fused into a trumpet shape.

Fruit/Seed: Crinkled brown or grey seeds in groups of 4 around the stem protected by stiffly bristled husks. Seed may remain dormant in the soil for up to 6 years but most will germinate within two years.

Dispersal: Roughened seed coats allow seed to adhere to wool, fur and clothing. Viable seed is passed by animals that have been feeding on the weed. Seed can be carried by water runoff. An important means of dispersal is contaminated hay and feed grain.

Distribution: Paterson’s Curse occurs in all agricultural areas of Tasmania in small scattered infestations. Commonly it is found around old home sites, poultry sheds and on road sides. New infestations in pasture have been linked to the feeding out of contaminated feed grain.

Status: Paterson’s curse is a Declared Secondary Weed. If you locate Paterson’s Curse and Viper’s Bugloss anywhere in Tasmania, or if you find a plant that you think could be Paterson’s curse and viper’s bugloss, immediately contact Biosecurity Tasmania on 03 6165 3777 to report this weed. Statutory Weed Management Plan

Weed Impact:

  • Once established Paterson’s Curse can strongly compete with pasture species.
  • Paterson’s Curse contains an accumulative poison which may cause chronic liver damage to stock although they will usually avoid it if there is other green feed available.
  • Can cause severe hay fever in some people.

Although Paterson’s Curse has the potential to be a really damaging weed, if outbreaks are spotted early, control and eradication can be achieved by using an integrated approach.

Control Methods:

  • Wash down all machinery when moving between sites.
  • Mechanical (all year). Grubbing and cutting are suitable for young plants as long as 20 to 40 mm of taproot is removed. Flowering plants need to be burned or destroyed as the seed may still mature even after removal from soil.
  • Grazing (all year). Heavy grazing is effective especially with sheep. However it needs to be carefully monitored as an over indulgence of the plant can cause liver damage. Heavily graze before the plants commence flowering. Control any flowering plants that escape grazing.
  • Cultivation (autumn, winter and spring). Effective in arable areas especially if cropped with root or cereal species or followed by vigorous pasture.
  • Biocontrol. Several biocontrol agents are being trialed interstate, however none have been introduced to Tasmania.
  • Herbicides (autumn and spring). Paterson’s Curse is best sprayed when young. Boom, spot and wiper application are all effective. MCPA, diflufenican, 2,4-D metsulfuron methyl, bromoxynil and glyphosate are registered in Tasmania. Herbicides for Paterson’s Curse and Viper’s Bugloss Control.

N.B. Always check the herbicide label before use.