Best to remove the impenetrable kraal thorn

2013-09-11 00:00

MAURITIUS thorn (Caesalpinia decapetala) has an appropriate Afrikaans name kraaldoring (kraal thorn), as this species is planted around kraals where it forms an impenetrable hedge.

A common Zulu name is ubombo. The pale-yellow flowers are arranged in elongate, erect clusters and are not easily confused with those of other plants. The species, native to Asia, was brought to South Africa for security hedging. These robust, thorny, evergreen shrubs can grow to a height of four metres or, if given the chance to climb, can reach 10 metres. Stems have both straight and hooked thorns. The leaves are large (up to 30 cm long), compound and dark green in colour. Being a legume, the seeds develop in flattened, woody, brown pods. The plants flower between November and May. Although useful as hedging, Mauritius thorn is highly invasive and should be eliminated. Favouring water courses and river banks, it also invades drier areas. Its dense, smothering growth can virtually eliminate all other vegetation. Its trailing branches root where they touch the ground and seeds are distributed in a variety of ways. Seedlings and saplings should be uprooted and plants prevented from spreading by removing the entire rootstock. Herbicide should be applied to small plants or to regrowth of larger plants that have been cut down.

• Jason Londt (Botanical Society of South Africa) 

— jasonlondt@telkomsa.net

THIS is the second in a series of articles on invasive alien plants. Unfortunately, many people appear to be unaware of the devastating impact that such plants have on our environment. The Inland Branch of the Botanical Society would like every patriotic South African to be able to identify our most important plant enemies and to take action against them in the national interest. The Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (Cara) makes provision for the protection of our environment and every concerned citizen should understand the implications of harbouring invasive alien plants on their property. This column is intended to assist readers to identify plants that need to be destroyed (Cara Category 1 plants). Although articles are written by Dr Jason Londt, under the banner of the Botanical Society of South Africa, information is based 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. Details are on the Agricultural Research Council’s website (www.arc.agric.za).

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