An online listing for Prickly Pear cactus - which is a banned and potentially dangerous plant. Picture: supplied
An online listing for Prickly Pear cactus - which is a banned and potentially dangerous plant. Picture: supplied

Illegal, dangerous plants sold at Brisbane markets

A "black market" of expensive illegal plants has emerged in Brisbane with online dealers pedalling banned cactuses and poisonous flowers that could be endangering Brisbane's pets, wildlife and children.

Residents and botanists around Brisbane have been warned of an emerging market of illegal cactuses and pest plants being sold online or at markets around Brisbane as the popularity of indoor gardens continues to grow.

An online listing for Prickly Pear cactus – which is a banned and potentially dangerous plant. Picture: supplied
An online listing for Prickly Pear cactus – which is a banned and potentially dangerous plant. Picture: supplied

The illegal plants - which Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said were often cactus or cactus-like plants - are being sold at garden markets and on internet marketplaces for prices of over $100.

For those caught with the plants, that cost would only increase, with Brisbane City Council yesterday warning anyone caught with the plants could receive a $667 fine.

"The reason these plants are illegal is that they are noxious and invasive weeds," Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said.

"They can kill both pets and native animals and they can very easily get out of control."

Council spends some $3.5 million each year removing weeds from local bushland and has investigated around 220 reports of potentially deadly of destructive pest plants this financial year alone.

 

The 'Bunny ears' cactus is among Council's list of banned plants. Picture: supplied
The 'Bunny ears' cactus is among Council's list of banned plants. Picture: supplied

 

A Prickly Pear cactus as pictured in an online post for sale.
A Prickly Pear cactus as pictured in an online post for sale.

 

Mr Schrinner cited the prickly pear cactuses as one of the worst offenders - it "spreads really quickly and does incredible damage" to bushland and has been seen advertised on Facebook marketplace for a whopping $150.

Brisbane Botanic Gardens Curator Dale Arvidsson said other popular dangerous plants included "mother of millions" and the flowering yellow oleander - both of which are poisonous to pets and people.

"Also a lot of creeper vines like cat's claw or the balloon vine which literally climb up native trees and strangle them," Mr Schrinner said.

More than 100 species are listed on council's invasive weed list, each with the potential to wipe out natural habitat, kill wildlife and choke waterways, Mr Schrinner said.

Shopping for a "plant child" for her new home yesterday, Charlie Wilson said she went to Mappins nursery to ensure she bought a healthy and environmentally safe plant.

 

Charlie Wilson, from Annerley, at Mappings nursery West End. Picture: Steve Pohlner
Charlie Wilson, from Annerley, at Mappings nursery West End. Picture: Steve Pohlner

Mappins Nursery worker Darren Hinte said the nursery had seen a "massive" increase in demand with COVID lockdowns and social media posts spawning a "whole new generation of gardeners".

Mr Hinte warned anyone to "investigate" and seek "local information" before buying plants, warning that overseas plants can be deadly to the Australian ecosystem.

"It's not that you can't get them … but if people are irresponsible they take over and go nuts," he said.

Mr Hinte said local nurseries can steer buyers in the right directions and guarantee their products.

"Buying from a nursery that gives you confidence that you can go back if there's a problem," he said.

Residents are urged to report sellers of banned plants and to dispose of their own banned plants in black plastic bags.

Originally published as Illegal, dangerous plants sold at Brisbane markets



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