Cape Tulip is a toxic weed known to cause death to all types of grazing animals. Our wildlife species are pretty smart when it comes to not eating what isn’t good for them, but, this doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
Many years ago a wallaby I had in care suddenly became ill. She had arrived on a scorching hot day as an 800gm dehydrated pouch joey whom I christened ‘B’ [her story is on the WRIN website]. Always considered very special, B was never your ordinary wallaby and I was known to mutter more than once that in a previous life I was sure she had been a human. ‘B’ eventually became a free-ranging outside wallaby, not quite to release stage but very much her own mistress, doing everything a wild young wallaby should be doing. One day I found ‘B’ at the door, which I opened, she came inside without hesitation which was unusual and moved to the kitchen cupboards then gracefully slid to the floor, just like you see in films where a drunk person leans on a wall then slowly slides to the ground. “Get the car, we’re going to the vet” I screamed and within minutes we were on our way with me cradling the semi-conscious ‘B’ in my arms.
The vet was waiting for our arrival and immediately the examination began, after checking eyes, heart, lungs and bowel sounds then checking for any signs of bites I was asked what she had been doing during the morning. Being a free-ranging animal I was unable to say much, I hadn’t followed her around, only spied her from time to time doing all the natural things wallabies do. Poisoning came up, as far as we knew there were no toxic plants within her ranging area, cape tulip was mentioned amongst other things and yes, in our paddocks [out of her range] we had found an occasional cape tulip leaf in the past but I was unaware of any within her ranging area.
‘B’ was taken home and put near the fire wrapped in a blanket. As soon as she had been settled on our return from the vet I went outside and checked all the places I had seen her during the morning and what a surprise when I found cape tulip growing quite close to the house. There were 2 corms with leaves, the leaves had been chewed to about half normal size. Although it is impossible to say that this was the cause of the problem, it is assumed. ‘B’ did recover, the corms were dug out of the ground and although there were only the 2 sprouting corms, I was amazed to find each had many cormils around the corms.
After her initial settling down ‘B’ was offered fluids and her temperature was monitored, later she was put onto a heat blanket. It is vital that any sick animal be placed on heat, no matter their size or age, a body that isn’t functioning at its PBT [preferred body temp] will not have the capacity to overcome illness or injury. Of course an animal suffering hyperthermia is an exception to this rule. ‘B’ was monitored throughout the night [I always sleep on the floor next to sick animals that have arrived for care], fluids were offered regularly, small amounts were lapped. Food was occasionally offered but never taken. She lay still throughout the night, was dull and lethargic, her eyes were dull and partly closed. The following morning she appeared brighter and by days end was pretty much back to her usual self and had begun eating. I do believe she had sampled cape tulip and luckily had decided it wasn’t for her before ingesting a lethal amount. Since the floods we have found many different weeds on our property as has anyone we have spoken to. Some were never seen prior to the flooding, so now we are even more vigilant than usual, not only because of the risk of toxic plants but some may take over and prevent the growth of grass and other browse that is so important for the wildlife we have in care.
The following is from a DPI article :
It is time to find and manage two-leaf cape tulip. The Department of Primary Industries [DPI] is urging landholders to treat infestations of two-leaf cape tulip [Moraea miniata] before it begins to flower in September.
A DPI Biosecurity Officer said all parts of the plant are known to be toxic to all types of grazing animals. “It causes loss of appetite, weakness, depression, blindness, dysentery, scouring, paralysis and even death. It’s estimated that within an established infestation of two-leaf cape tulip there may be up to 200,000 dormant plants within the soil per square metre, ready to germinate under favourable conditions.
Although two-leaf cape tulip is not recorded widely throughout the region, it is capable of spreading quickly from the few known infestations if not treated adequately, or through inadvertent importation of fodder, soil, contaminated equipment and vehicles from affected areas.”
The Biosecurity Officer is urging landowners to keep an eye out for two-leaf cape tulip and to treat infestations before they produce viable corms and cormils. He said DPI is also ensuring that known infestations are managed, with the aim of preventing further spread and eventual eradication.
Under the Catchment and Land Protection Act, 1994 it is the responsibility of the landowner to take all reasonable steps to eradicate regionally prohibited weeds on their land. The officer said its paramount the community work together in preventing further spread of regionally prohibited weeds.
For further information or to report sightings of two-leaf cape tulip please contact DPI customer service on 136 186 or visit Weeds on the DPI site.
DPI media release.