Big Bad Captain Cook: The Tyrannical Tree Causing Chaos In Australia

There are a wide variety of invasive species that threaten to continue to create problems for Australia's delicate ecology system, but perhaps one of the most curious and damaging of them all is the Captain Cook tree. This memorably named plant (also known as the Yellow Oleander or Cascabela Thevetia) has been officially classified by the government as one of Australia's many noxious weeds, and requires strict management in order to prevent it from harming wide regions of the country.

What Is The Captain Cook Tree?

Native to the tropical regions of South America and the West Indies, the Captain Cook tree can grow as high as ten metres, sporting long, green leaves, funnel-shaped flowers, and fruit that resembles a lantern. Every part of the tree is highly toxic, and given how it serves no ecological purpose but has the ability to spread rapidly, it is currently considered as a Class 3 pest by the Australian government. It usually tends to grow along roadsides, waste areas, and disturbed agricultural sites. 

The Threat Of Captain Cook

The Captain Cook tree has become a dangerously invasive species in Australia, especially in the area of Queensland. It poses significant threat in a variety of ways:

  • Poisonous: All parts of the Captain Cook tree are highly poisonous, with the stems and leaves containing a toxic milky sap. The seeds of the tree – which are produced in high number by older variations - are especially venomous, and can prove to be fatal to human beings if ingested.
  • Invades Native Vegetation: The thick growth of Captain Cook displaces the kind of native vegetation that allows animals in the environment to feed, grow, live, sleep and reproduce. The leathery leaves and funnel-shaped flowers form a complex structure that overshadows natural food sources and ruins warm shelter, making the space impossible for many wild animals to eat and thrive there any longer.
  • Destroys Sustainable Pasture Production: Any farmers or land-owners looking for sustainable pasture production will find these areas threatened significantly by the Captain Cook tree, which has the ability to ruin areas of ground that were previously excellent for growth of food sources.

Preventing And Removing Captain Cook

Given the Captain Cook tree's highly poisonous properties, removing it yourself is a risky and complex task to complete. It is recommended that you should always hire a professional to deal with this noxious weed if it has grown into a significantly sized tree, but if it still remains relatively small, you can remove it yourself by wearing gloves, a mask, and protective clothing. Never try to remove Captain Cook by burning it away, as the smoke fumes released from combustion will be toxic to inhale.

  • Initial Prevention: The best way to deal with the Captain Cook tree is to help prevent its formation in the first place. The tree is relatively easy to identify even when young, as the long green leaves spread out in in separate directions to resemble a spiky star-shaped shrub. Dark green fruit will eventually form, along with bright yellow flowers that grow into the shape of a funnel. As soon as you see any signs of the Captain Cook tree forming, it is important to act quickly and continue to check the area in order to prevent regrowth. Cutting away the stump of the tree and quickly spraying the stem with herbicide mixture is an effective method to prevent the species becoming large and troublesome.
  • Removal: As mentioned before, it is always best to recruit a professional to deal with any Captain Cook trees that are well-established in your area, but if the plant still remains less than 2 metres high, applying a foliar spray across it from top to bottom should help to cease its growth, and make removal easier for the professionals.

To hire a professional to remove your tree, contact a company like Heritage Tree Care.


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