Balloon vine is hugely problematic in KZN

2013-12-06 00:00

BALLOON vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum) is a highly visible creeper that was first recorded in Eshowe in 1937, which has now become hugely problematic throughout much of KwaZulu-Natal and is spreading at an alarming rate.

Otherwise called blaasklimop (Afrikaans) and intandela (Zulu), it was introduced to South Africa from tropical America, presumably for ornamental purposes.

It is a very vigorous, vine-like perennial climber with tendrils. It can grow to enormous lengths and is capable of smothering a tree 10 metres high. The leaves are pale green and the stems are covered with bristly hairs. Like all ornamentals, the flowers, although quite small, are white and yellow, grow in clusters and are pleasantly fragrant.

Balloon vine flowers mainly between October and January.

A membranous, three-lobed, inflated, balloon-like capsule surrounds a relatively small spherical seed that changes from green to black when ripe. The seeds remain attached to their papery capsules, which become detached and are dispersed effectively by wind.

The vine invades forest margins, watercourses and urban open spaces, competing with and smothering indigenous plant species. This alien invasive plant is relatively easy to control as plants can be pulled up by the root, but they grow very quickly and require regular attention. No herbicide is currently registered for this weed.

• Jason Londt (Botanical Society of South Africa).

• 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 play a part in ensuring that these are effectively eliminated. By outcompeting indigenous plants, alien invasive plants not only threaten our floral heritage but impact on 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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