Obnoxious Plants and Pestiferous Growths: how figurative language reinforces the management of weeds in Victoria, Australia

Publication Name

Australian Geographer


The militaristic metaphors common in public discourses about invasive species have been criticised for promoting combative management approaches and constraining policy responses. But are they really to blame for entrenching a command-and-control approach to managing weeds in Australia? Since 2000, almost every state and territory has introduced new biosecurity legislation encouraging ‘shared responsibility’. Yet, this term remains noticeably absent from new legislation in Victoria. We aim to examine whether public discourses around invasive plants have remained unchanged to better understand how invasive plants have been framed and whether this can provide insight into the lack of engagement with ‘shared responsibility’ in Victorian legislation. This study investigates figurative language used in Victorian newspapers from 1885 to 2020 to describe three invasive plants and their management: Bathurst burr, blackberry and gorse. The figurative language reveals limited acknowledgement of humans' role in the spread of weeds and emphasis on the diverse impacts of weeds on humans. Militaristic metaphors have existed for over 130 years, but are neither the most predominant nor community-mobilising. Overall, figurative language has focused on individual efforts to control weeds, without critical analysis of the inter-relationships between humans and weeds nor having created opportunities for caring or collaborative weed management.

Open Access Status

This publication is not available as open access

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



Link to publisher version (DOI)