Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

August 7th 2011
Hoyt is looking for a hand

Hoyt with, assistant for now, John Davies He can be seen almost any time of the day along the Nelly Bay foreshore, bucket and spade in hand, head down and tugging at the plants he believes are a threat to the local environment and, in some cases, capable of causing injury. His name is Hoyt Drake and he is now hoping others may help continue his work while he goes into hospital for an operation.

At 72, “going on 22”, Hoyt has been living and weeding on Magnetic for ten years and discovered some of the tenacious but prickly or invasive plants he believes are weeds to the Island when he was staying at base backpackers - his first address on Magnetic.

The pair spot a tarvine

“I got the burrs in my thongs and they flattened the tires of my bike” said Hoyt who was busy instructing one visiting volunteer, Peter Davies from Melbourne who is on a working holiday and keen to help out. The pair were searching the ground near the old helipad looking for tarvine (Boerhavia dominii) a common sticky headed plant with seeds which are very easily transported by legs of humans and animals. While the plant is an Australian native Hoyt believes it is not a native of Magnetic Island, “Otherwise it would be up through all of the hills” he said.

A small tarvine which is mostly dormant during the winter
but rapidly grows in the wet producing many sticky seeds

Other “favourites” also include the tire and foot puncturing goat’s head burr (Tribulus cistoides) which presents a pretty yellow flower followed by the painful goat’s head spikes which are designed so that no matter which way the head faces there will always be one spike facing upwards.

Other favourites include barley burr or Mossman river grass (Cenchrus echinatus) - another painful leg and foot grabber which Hoyt is always on the look-out for as he works his way between xbase and the Nelly Bay Supermarket along the road verge and the foreshore.

The land for the most belongs to Townsville City Council and, according to Hoyt, he has approached Council about his voluntary work on several occasions. “They haven’t opposed me but haven’t helped either” he said, adding that teams from what he believes to be the council come through and weed out the hyptis weed nearby but 
“It’s usually after it has seeded”.

“If I see a small lantana, snake weed or periwinkle I will pull them out too,” says Hoyt.

“But I think the burrs are a health threat. I think melioidosis (an infectious disease found in the tropics in soil and water) could be caused by a burr puncture” says Hoyt although accepting he has no direct evidence.

But now Hoyt’s own health is a problem with a hernia operation required later this week. He expects that he will be unable to keep on top of the plants for two months and that will be followed by a three month spell with his family in New Zealand. Because of this he is keen to find volunteers who might wish to help with his work and stop the very fast seeding plants to get away.

For locals or visitors interested in helping Hoyt his email is

Story & photos: George Hirst

To add your comment,
or read those of others, see below

Hoyt is looking for a hand
Sylvia Hayes
August 7th 2011
I think you are a fantastic bloke, Hoyt, and truly inspiring. I am just having a garden cleanout and have become very aware of invasive plants (usually the ones with heaps of flower heads that set seed quickly!) that I won't compost or send to landfill. A terrific guide for me has been the website "grow me instead" for our dry tropics region.
Eric Vanderduys
August 10th 2011
I agree tah vine (Boerhavia) is an annoyance when in seed. However, I can't see how its presence, mostly in the lowlands, indicates that it's not native to Magnetic Island. Plenty of plants grow only on the lowlands, or only on the higher parts too. Tah vine is a weed in the sense that it likes disturbed areas - which are found mostly in lower parts of the island. Across parts of its range that I've seen it is tends to be a plant of either heavy soils (the sort of soil that's hard to break with a shovel when dry) or disturbed soils, and that is the lowlands of the island.

In my opinion damaging (environmentally) weeds include lantana (mostly on rocky slopes), snake weed (disturbed areas), mother-in-law's tongue (mostly along creeks) and hyptis (mint weed / stinking roger). And many more of course.

What do you think? Send us your comments.

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