Attractive alien is a serious invader

2014-06-12 00:00

MONTANOA (Montanoa hibiscifolia), otherwise known as the tree daisy or tree dahlia is also called ubhongobhongo in Zulu and is an attractive, semi-woody perennial shrub growing up to six metres in height. The species has its origin in Central America and was introduced to South Africa for ornamental purposes.

The distinctive, large, hairy, dark-green leaves are deeply lobed and, as the species name suggests, resemble those of some hibiscus plants. Flowers are rather dahlia-like, with a yellowish centre and white petals. The dry, hard fruits are reddish-brown. Flowering takes place between May and October.

These plants form unsightly infestations along roads and in disturbed areas throughout KZN, and have become more common in Pietermaritzburg over the last decade and good stands may be seen in the upper Montrose area where alien plants abound. Although it prefers shady habitats, it may be found in close proximity to drainage lines, streams and habitats with high soil moisture levels. Due to its height, it shades out indigenous species and obstructs vision. Montanoa can totally displace indigenous plant communities and so has great potential to become a serious invader. Seedlings and saplings can be removed by hand if the soil is moist. Unfortunately there are no registered herbicides for this species.

• jasonlondt@telkomsa.net

IN this series of articles the Inland Branch of the Botanical Society is endeavouring to promote the eradication of alien invasive plants by helping concerned citizens to recognise the more important species.

As the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act makes it an offence to harbour invasive alien plants on your property, it is the responsibility of everyone to take a part in ensuring that these are effectively eliminated. By outcompeting indigenous plants, alien invasive plants not only threaten our floral heritage but impact our ecosystems negatively.

Not only that, but they are usually thirsty plants and can have a very negative impact on our precious water resources. Information contained in these articles is based largely on the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa’s handbook titled Invasive alien plants in KwaZulu-Natal: Management and control, and readers are encouraged to get a copy. The focus is on the most important plants (Category 1), which are listed on the Agricultural Research Council’s website (www.arc.agric.za), and concerned citizens are urged to report infestations to the appropriate authority.

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