Residents of a rural Australian city are frustrated by a fast-growing tumbleweed called hairy panic that is piling up outside their houses, covering lawns and blocking doors and windows.
Hairy panic is piling up outside several homes in Wangaratta in north-east Victoria – at times reportedly reaching roof height – forcing residents to clear it several times a day. About 20 residences on Bella Way, a new development hard against the fringe of farmland, have been particularly affected, with the grass blowing over from neighbouring fie
But authorities say they have limited powers to do anything about the problem.
Hairy panic – Panicum effusum – is a short-lived perennial native to inland Australia. Outbreaks of the weed take place across the country every year but Wangaratta has been hit particularly badly this year because of dry conditions.
Matt Thewlis posted several images of his home covered in the grass to the council’s Facebook page: “Hope the person who owns the out-of-control paddocks in our area gets notified to do something because this is a joke and the whole estate is sick of it! … ask yourself this would you put up with this everyday?”
Thewlis and other residents who have posted publicly to the council page have been contacted over Facebook for comment.
A council spokesman told Guardian Australia there was not much that could be done “from an enforcement side of things, through local laws,” to control the tumbleweed’s spread, though it was investigating potential controls for next year. “The council has a very limited capacity to intervene, but we are attempting to work with residents and nearby farmers.”
On Friday morning street sweepers would “attempt to clean up the mess”, he said. “We don’t know how effective it’s going to be until we try.”
Though there was often hairy panic in Wangaratta, he said, it had been particularly bad this summer. “It’s widespread. It can happen in any town, at any time, and it does happen in Wangaratta. It just spreads from farm to farm.”
The council had received up to 30 complaints about the grass, though the spokesman clarified that not all were from residents affected by it. “Some people are just ringing to talk to us about it, which is fine.”
The spokesman said hairy panic would go wherever the wind blows, and clarified again that it was not something that the council “can stop from happening”.
Despite concerns raised by Wangaratta residents about the safety of their properties, the Country Fire Authority has advised that the fire risk of the grass is “relatively low”.
If eaten by farm animals in large quantities, it can cause photosensitisation or “yellow big-head”, the blistering of hairless or light-coloured areas. It poses no threat to pets.