Willow trees near rivers and creeks are a silent danger

Willow trees near rivers and creeks are a silent danger

By Lidia Boque Gousgouni
22 Sep 2017

In last week’s article, I mentioned that Willows cause erosion and that they spread by seed and stem fragments. Both of these methods have been very effective in creating thickets of Willows along banks and even in the middle of creeks and wetland areas. The massive amounts of Willows are suffocating the native plants and stopping them from growing. So not only is it damaging the river banks, but it’s creating poor habitats for our native animals, including the ones in the water!

The thick shade we like in summer doesn’t provide the ground with enough light to stimulate productive growth in the water below. And because Willows are deciduous trees, in winter when all the leaves drop, where do they go? Straight into the water below, where it adds extra blockage to the watercourse and suffocates the animals in there and overall, creates poor water quality.

Willows occupy thousands of kilometers of streams and wetland areas all across Australia. Subsequently, they cost the government millions of dollars each year in control, around 2 million annually in Victoria alone. 

They are a very difficult plant to control because we can’t pull them out, as that would cause more erosion and they spread so fast and easily, it’s hard to keep on top of it all. The most commonly used method is where the saplings or trees are cut down and then a chemical herbicide is applied to poison the tree and stop it from growing back. They are such strong trees and a lot of the time they even re-shoot and require constant retreatment. For this reason, 3-5 year Willow treatment plans are made, usually alternating the periods and location of Willow removal but also revegetation of native plants. This ensures we’re not destroying the animal’s current habitats and leaving space bare for either re-infestation of Willows or from other weeds. It’s a time-consuming process, but this way we can try to keep the surrounding environment to its best condition, without causing unnecessary damage, and not letting the invasion get worse.

If you’re looking for a good area to see some Willow control, visit Castle Creek in West Wodonga where the Green Army recently spent months removing Willow and re-planting natives to help improve the area.

They even put in a new table and chairs for you to admire the view from! 



Kitchen Gardening at Wodonga TAFE.  This short course is about developing a sustainable vegie patch.  Learn about companion planting, composting, recycling and how to manage pests without dangerous chemicals.  Run over three mornings (9th, 16th and 23rd October) 9.30am- 12.30pm.  Cost is $250 – for more information call Wodonga TAFE on 1300 MY TAFE (1300 698 233) or apply online at https://www.wodongatafe.edu.au/courses/NA10W2SKG/Kitchen-Gardening



Castle Creek - Cleared willow stumps to give back space for newly planted natives to grow.  Sometimes you need to take things back to ground level to start again and do it right. 

 Written by 

Bree Meindl