Weeds and Bushcare News

Tradescantia (Trad) It's Chicken Feed!

Do you have a problem with Tradescantia (Trad) on your Bushcare site? Or perhaps in your garden, or next door?
Then this article is for you!

photo: Jackie Miles (South Coast Weeds)

Duck delight

"I know chooks love to eat Wandering Jew, as my own chooks devoured it, every bit of it. None ever came up in my garden from bits left uneaten,' wrote Dale Morgan, of Mullum Mullum Creek Bushcare Group (Vic). "As we have so much of the stuff infesting our bush and most backyards it would be great to make good use of it."

This message on the Enviroweeds server engendered much interest and discussion amongst weedos.

"I too have fed that plant to my home chooks without ill effect. I was helping aquaintances clear a yard and came home with my station wagon filled to the ceiling mostly with Tradescantia (Wandering Jew). The chooks destroyed it all and were fine." This message from Wendy Moore was supported by our own Linda Thomas, BMCC Weed Extension Officer, who added, "A bush regenerator in the Mountains has been feeding our Trad (Wandering Jew) to his chooks on and off for several years without any ill effects." (WeedWoman has been unable to interview him at this time - wait for a photo!)

Renee Weirzbicki, of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, suggested "donating the Tradescantia, and any other green weeds to a local school or community group that keeps free range chooks - as long as it has not been sprayed." David Mackenzie of the CSIRO thought this was a good idea. He even gave it a name: "value-added production, or vertical integration as they term this sort of next-step processing of your own produce."

But, he warned, "I would be pretty concerned though if the Wandering Jew were to be transported any distance, the potential for spread by dropping pieces is high. Just look at the roadside vegetation in certain farming areas where farm produce is trucked to silos, markets etc, and see the region's crops well represented."

photo: Jackie Miles (South Coast Weeds)

Chicken feed

An even more creative use for Wandering Jew was suggested by Bob Makinson, of the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney: "Tradescantia is also consumed avidly by at least some varieties of domestic ducks. I have seen two cases of large backyard infestations in Sydney area that have each had two or three ducks (I think Muscovies) turned loose. The results looked a bit like the Battle of Passchendaele but there wasn't a skerrick of Wandering Jew left alive. If someone works out how to drove ducks (probably easier than chooks) along Sydney bushland gully bottoms for some crash grazing, it might even be a viable management tool."

Well, there you have it! Lateral thinking indeed for a solution to a major weed problem - not just disposing of Trad, but removing it as well. WeedWoman looks forward to the day a Lower Mountains Bushcare group drives a flock of hungry ducks down the Trad infested gully, or installs a portable chicken coop: do invite me for a photo!

Julie Cave, BMCC Bush Regeneration Team, has made some other suggestions for use of Trad.

  • Use it as liquid fertiliser
    Put the weed into a large bin of water. Make sure all weed is submerged or it will grow. Cover tightly and leave for a month. Dilute this liquid 1:10 and start fertilising. Warning: use gloves as this stuff really stinks!
  • Make rich compost
    Place heaps of Trad in black plastic bags for a year. Check occasionally to ensure that no light is getting into the bag. You will end up with the richest blackest compost imaginable. I have used this method at the bottom of Knapsack Creek instead of lugging bags of Trad up a very steep hill. The lyrebirds love digging around in the resulting compost.

Learn about Trad.