Until recently I knew 2 things about Patterson’s Curse (Echium plantagineum):
1) It is a noxious, introduced weed that is overrunning the grazing lands of Australia and is poisonous to some livestock.
2) It produces beautiful, small, purple flowers in spring. These flowers create a picturesque blanket of vibrant colour across the landscape that would adorn many a travel brochure if it weren’t for point 1) above (oops). And I’m not just parroting what I’ve been told, I’ve seen fields clothed in violet and stood in awe – they are spectacular. But poisonous (bummer).
When wandering the Richmond farm recently, I stumbled upon a mass of broad-leafed plants. I had no idea if they were weeds, treasured rarities or perhaps promising herbal remedies. I wasn’t even sure if they were planted or invasive. They were tucked nicely in a cluster in one corner of an overgrown bed, but so were roses and tomatoes and any number of unidentified plants around the property, so that didn’t tell me much.
Then I spotted a rather telling purple bloom.
What did I say about it being beautiful? Am I right? Imagine a field of these things! It’s winter now so the flowers shouldn’t even be out. Think what they’d be like in spring.
Being the conscientious citizen, wizened farmer and good neighbour that I am, I resolved to discover if this was in fact Patterson’s Curse and, if so, to eradicate it from my lands by any means at my disposal before it spread to some of the horse pastures nearby.
Quick smart I made my way to my computer and searched for Patterson’s Curse. The images and descriptions confirmed my suspicions, the Richmond farm has a PC infestation. But, before I could break out the napalm, I spotted the tagline on the CSIRO page about Patterson’s Curse: “Paterson’s curse is considered a great resource for apiarists“.
There are about 50 beehives on the 18 acres I’m now caretaker of – that’s a lot of hungry mouths to feed. So, rather than ripping and burning, I’m going to nurture and love my little patch of Patterson’s Curse. One mans weed is another colony’s feast. Bees win, horses lose – at least in my corner of the world.