Cutch tree (Senegalia catechu)

Cutch tree is a small thorny tree with fern-like leaves. It forms dense stands that outcompete other plants.

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How does this weed affect you?

Cutch trees:

  • invade and shade out pastures, reducing productivity
  • have sharp thorns that can injure people or animals
  • form dense impenetrable stands which make mustering difficult.

What does it look like?

Cutch tree is a small tree 3–15 m tall with fern-like leaves and long, brown seed pods.

 Leaves are:

  • fernlike with a pair of hooked thorns (up to 10 mm long) at the base
  • usually 10–15 cm long (occasionally 20 cm)
  • made up of 7–24 pairs of leaflets which are further divided into 8-30 pairs of secondary leaflets.

Secondary leaflets are:

  • dark green
  • oblong, 2–6 mm long
  • covered in fine hairs
  • in opposite pairs.

Flowers are:

  • white or pale yellow
  • about 3 mm long
  • bunched tightly together to form a flower spike (35–75 mm long).

Fruit are:

  • brown hard pods with a beak on the end
  • 50–125 mm long
  • on a short stalk
  • produced in large numbers each containing 4–7 seeds.

Seeds are:

  • dark brown
  • 5–8 mm wide
  • flat.

Stems:

  • have pairs of flattened, hooked thorns up to 10 mm long at each node
  • are dark brown to black
  • are cork-like in young trees changing to rough bark which peels off in long strips on mature trees.

Roots:

Cutch tree has a tap root that reaches up to 2 m deep.

Similar looking plants

Cutch tree looks similar to:

  • mesquite (Prosopis spp.)
  • prickly acacia (Acacia nilotica)
  • mimosa (Mimosa pigra).

They all have fern-like leaves and spines. Cutch tree has different bark from the other weeds. It is corky on young trees and dark and flakey on older trees. Also, the cutch tree seed pods have a distinctive beak.

Scientific name change

This plant was previously named Acacia catechu.

Where is it found?

Cutch tree has not been recorded in NSW. In Australia, cutch tree has only been found in Darwin in the Northern Territory. It had spread from the Darwin Botanic Gardens. This incursion is now considered to be eradicated.

Cutch tree is native to India, the Malay peninsula and Indonesia.

What type of environment does it grow in?

Cutch tree grows in subtropical and tropical climates. It prefers open woodlands and grasslands and invades degraded areas such as overgrazed grasslands and areas that are regularly burnt. It grows well on most soils, but thrives in well-drained, shallow to medium-depth sandy soils.

Cutch tree is very sensitive to shade and will not set seed in forest communities.

How does it spread?

By seed

Cutch trees produce large numbers of seeds, which can survive in the soil for 20 years. Seeds and seed pods are spread:

  • by cattle that eat seed pods and excrete viable seed
  • in moving water
  • in mud that sticks to animals, footwear, vehicles, or machinery.

Acknowledgements

CRC for Australian Weed Management: Ian Miller (NT DBIRD), Andrew Mitchell (AQIS/Weeds CRC), Blair Grace (NT DIPE/Weeds CRC), Sharon Wilson (NT Botanic Gardens) and John Thorp (National Weeds Management Facilitator). 

References

CRC Weed Management (2003). Weed Management Guide: Cutch Tree Acacia catechu. Retrieved 2020 from: https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/invasive/weeds/publications/guidelines/alert/pubs/a-catechu.pdf

Parsons, W.T., & Cuthbertson, E. G. (2001). Noxious weeds of Australia. CSIRO publishing.

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Control

Few cutch tree infestations occur, so there is potential for new incursions to be eradicated before becoming established. 

Contact your local council weeds officer as soon as possible if you suspect you have found any cutch trees. Do not try to control mature cutch trees without expert assistance.

Physical removal

By hand

When: After rain when soil is soft.

Follow up: Check sites at least three times a year for up to 20 years.

Hand-pull small seedlings or dig them out with a mattock. Remove as much of the root system as possible.

Chemical control

Stem injection

Drill or make cuts into the sapwood and fill with herbicide within 10 seconds of cutting.

Herbicide options

WARNING - ALWAYS READ THE LABEL
Users of agricultural or veterinary chemical products must always read the label and any permit, before using the product, and strictly comply with the directions on the label and the conditions of any permit. Users are not absolved from compliance with the directions on the label or the conditions of the permit by reason of any statement made or not made in this information. To view permits or product labels go to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority website www.apvma.gov.au

See Using herbicides for more information.


Clopyralid 750 g/L (Lontrel 750 SG Herbicide)
Rate: 200 g of product diluted into 2.5 L water (Apply 1 or 2 mL per cut)
Comments: Stem injection: Use 1 mL per cut for single stems less than 25 cm diameter at base. Use 2 mL per cut for multi-stem trees or stems more than 25 cm at the base. See label for critical comments.
Withholding period: Do not graze or cut for stock food for 7 days after application. For harvesting up to 12 weeks, see label for details.
Herbicide group: I, Disruptors of plant cell growth (synthetic auxins)
Resistance risk: Moderate


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Biosecurity duty

The content provided here is for information purposes only and is taken from the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation, and the Regional Strategic Weed Management Plans (published by each Local Land Services region in NSW). It describes the state and regional priorities for weeds in New South Wales, Australia.

Area Duty
All of NSW General Biosecurity Duty
All plants are regulated with a general biosecurity duty to prevent, eliminate or minimise any biosecurity risk they may pose. Any person who deals with any plant, who knows (or ought to know) of any biosecurity risk, has a duty to ensure the risk is prevented, eliminated or minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.

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For technical advice and assistance with identification please contact your local council weeds officer.
For further information call the NSW DPI Biosecurity Helpline on 1800 680 244 or send an email to weeds@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Reviewed 2021