A houseplant that was recently introduced to Queensland has caused the death of a mother and her two young daughters.
Rythmia Plant Medicine was introduced to the state in 2017, and since then the plants have invaded the homes of residents in several Queensland towns.
Its main application is as a pesticide.
The first two generations of plants that invaded the town of Port Hedland, in south-east Queensland, were found to be invasive.
They were removed by a farmer from a garden and sent to an agricultural research station for further evaluation.
Two of the plants died, but one survived.
In February 2018, the second generation arrived in Port Hedlands.
It had a slightly different look and started to invade a nearby home.
One of the new arrivals had a much bigger diameter than the previous one.
It was a few weeks before the coroner’s inquest into the deaths of the two children.
A neighbour was alerted to the problem, and she called the pest control company that had been treating the new plant for weeks to report the problem.
“They were all very apologetic and said it was nothing serious and they were really glad to see it was gone,” she said.
An investigation was launched, but nothing was done.
After the inquest, a pest control supervisor contacted Queensland’s Health Department to report that Rythmia Plants Medicine had been approved for use in the state.
However, he said, it was only allowed to be applied for for two years.
He said the plant had been “taken over” by an invasive species and was not suitable for the state’s residential landscape.
So, the department recommended that the plant be destroyed and its new owners be notified.
On Tuesday, the Queensland Government issued a statement to ABC News saying it was “committed to protecting and preserving our native native vegetation and ecosystem” and that the Department was “notifying the owners of Rythmicia Plant Medicine as soon as possible”.
Queensland Health Department spokeswoman Rebecca Purdy said it had received no complaints about the plant.
She said the department was “working closely with Queensland pest control experts to manage the pest”.
“We have a range of products that can be applied to native plants in Queensland, including Rythmalas,” Ms Purdy told ABC News.
Queenland’s pest control officer said that he was concerned about the issue of the invasive plants and its effects on the environment.
But, he added, the Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries was “very focused on protecting native plants and our natural ecosystems”.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has also issued a warning about the situation.
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