A prickly problem for farmers

John Scott.

John Scott.

Forbes farmers could be facing a prickly problem.

Local farmer John Scott, who owns a small holding on the Cowra road came across a Thorn Apple on his property this week.

Mr Scott says it is probably 15 years since he last saw the weed in the Forbes area.

Thornapple is highly toxic to humans, capable of causing serious illness or death. All parts of the plant, particularly the flowers, seeds and nectar are poisonous, causing thirst, increased temperatures, rapid pulse, incoherence and convulsions. 

The entire plant is also poisonous to livestock and pets.

Mr Scott thinks sheep wouldn’t eat the plant but fears cattle may consume it by accident.

He has only found the one plant on his property but warns local farmers to keep an eye out for the weed which may have made its way to the district during the recent floods. 

Common thornapple is a short-lives plant that grows in disturbed sites.

Flowers are white-lilac 6-8 cm long. Seed capsules are large and oval shaped with numerous spines varying in lengths. 

The thorn apple (recurved) reproduces by seed so plants should be destroyed before they reach the seedling stage.

Most of the weed is spread through the contamination of agricultural seeds.

Both the seeds and capsules float on water, which provides an effective means of dispersal. Seeds are also dispersed via machinery, vehicles and mud. Pieces of root of the plant's perennial species are also dispersed when dragged by cultivation equipment.

Seeds of the thorn apple (recurved) require a period of 5-11 months after ripening before they germinate. 

Seeds are long lived with one experiment showing 91 per cent of seeds surviving 39 years after burial.