When I was getting ready to come to Macquarie Island last year, I talked to a few expeditioners who had previously been or were still living on Macca. One word that kept coming up in Emails and general conversation was “Buzzy”. Watch out for the “Buzzies”!
I was advised to bring all sorts of gloves and protective clothing to prevent being attacked by the Buzzies.
So I will start this article with the biological description, its habitat and the ecology of the Sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island “Buzzy” and conclude with my own description of what the “Buzzy Burr” or “Bidi-bid” here is really like.
Species: Acaena magellanica
Acaena — From the Greek ‘Akanthos’ or thorn, this is referring to the spiny calyx that many of the species have.
Magellanica – This is named after the Magellan Straights in South America
Family: Rosacea Order: Rosales
Description: it is a perennial, mat forming plant with creeping stems. The leaves are oblong with 5–10 pairs of ovate leaflets. The flower heads are globular in shape and they grow on wiry stems that extend well past the foliage. These round red flowers turn into brown, prickly seed heads. Each seed has small hooks that enables them to adhere to clothing, feathers and fur.
Habitat: The species is native to the southern part of South America. Its range covers Argentina, Chile and various Sub-Antarctic Islands. Its typical habitat is damp places, such as the edge of bogs, the banks of streams, any waterlogged areas and meadows. It grows from sea level to an altitude of around 4,200m. It may cover the ground in dense patches and is deciduous.
Dispersal: Spiny hypanthia (burrs) are dispersed by attaching to feathers, fur and clothing. Wind could also play a part in the right conditions.
Well done if you have read this far….
So, having lived with the “Buzzy” for the last 10 months, I can say these tiny little brown seeds, which have tiny hooks or barbs, can certainly be a problem when leaving the designated tracks and going cross country. They do stick to all types of materials, outer clothing, Velcro straps, backpacks, boot gaiters and any other item they come in contact with! They really like woollen gloves and woollen thermals.
A piece of general advice — Do not sit down and put your pack in a field of “Buzzy” plants! I would compare them to what we call “Cobblers Pegs” back home in Queensland. From my experience they only really become a problem if they get into places where they shouldn’t. Places like socks, thermals, undergarments, washing machines and clothes driers! They can be scrubbed off clothing or you spend time in picking them off individually.
Also for most of the winter months there seem to be less of the little “Buzzies” around and able to attach themselves to our clothing. Spring and summer is now here at Macquarie Island and the attractive red flower heads are out in full bloom. These heads will soon turn brown with the individual brown seeds, each with its own hooks.
The large dense patches of the very green foliage of the plant are known to the safe habitat of birds, in particular some species of Petrels.
So, watch out for the “Buzzies”.
Macquarie Island electrician