Plant toxic to humans and livestock set to bloom

The Cape Tulip. Photo:  Northland Regional Council
The Cape Tulip. Photo: Northland Regional Council
Canterbury gardeners are being asked to keep an eye out for a poisonous pest plant that will bloom in June.

Native to South Africa, Cape Tulip - which has distinctive salmon pink flowers with a yellow centre - is toxic to both humans and livestock.

It has been in Aotearoa since the 1940s and was recognised as a noxious plant in 1978, banned from sale, propagation and distribution.

Since then, the more than 500 sites infected with the flower have been whittled down to 29 that Biosecurity New Zealand was aware of.

Three plants were recently found in a Canterbury garden, while it was found at 10 sites in the Marlborough Sounds.

Biosecurity New Zealand spokesperson John Sanson said cape tulips produce both corms, which can rapidly multiply and spread, and between 3000 and 6000 seeds per plant.

"Like most of the invasive species we deal with, it can be tricky to control and get every last plant. With the corms and seeds it can be hard to get every last bit - it can take several years to treat a site.

"Plants and flowers appear between June and December, so it's a perfect time for people to familiarise themselves with what it looks like."

Cape tulip has the potential to establish dense colonies over wide areas of pasture. Photo:...
Cape tulip has the potential to establish dense colonies over wide areas of pasture. Photo: Andrew Massyn / Northland Regional Council
Symptoms of Cape Tulip poisoning for humans include gastroenteritis, thirst, paralysis, blindness, and heart and kidney failure.

Sanson said it was in farmers' best interests to report findings as the plant was toxic to livestock.

"At the extreme end it can cause some quite significant problems and cause heart and kidney failure, blindness but we're not aware of any recent reports of mortality or anything like that."

He said anyone who spots Cape Tulip should report it to Biosecurity New Zealand's exotic pest and disease freephone 0800 80 99 66. Staff will come and take care of it.

"We don't want people digging it up or, you know, trying to spray or remove these plants themselves, given the nature of it."