It was once planted as a hedge and feature planting in gardens throughout the Eurobodalla for its bright display of red berries and unusual leaves. But now, the cotoneasters huge spread of competitive roots, pesky suckers and easily-spread berries are causing more problems than their beauty is worth.
A mature cotoneaster sends out a huge carpet of fine roots that can spread over large areas and suck the soil dry of moisture. This makes it difficult for other more desirable plants to grow and they often become stunted and unhealthy if they are sharing the yard with a cotoneaster.
There are several species of cotoneaster. All are exotic species and range in form from ground-hugging plants to trees that can reach four-metres tall. They have small clusters of pink or white flowers that are followed by red berries around this time of year.
Once digested by the birds and excreted in new areas, the seed quickly germinates and can invade the surrounding bushland.
The good news is that cotoneaster can easily be removed. The trunk needs to be cut near the base and herbicide applied immediately to the cut surface. Applying the herbicide will prevent the tree from reshooting and the roots will become inactive and eventually decompose.
Once the cotoneaster has been treated, the area should be planted with more desirable species. There are many bush-friendly plants that have fruits, berries or seeds and can replace the cotoneaster as a source of food for birds in your garden.
Some native alternatives with beautiful flowers could be banksia, grevillea or callistemon. All of these shrubs will attract native birds but do not have the invasive nature and high maintenance requirements of the cotoneaster.
If you’re removing cotoneasters from your property, Council can exchange them for free native plants. Contact Courtney Fink-Downes in the environment team on 4474 7493 for more information.