Know your alien invaders

2014-08-08 00:00

GET to know your aliens.

With the publication last week of the Lists and Regulations on Alien Invasive Species by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) the onus falls on homeowners and gardeners to spot the invaders in their back gardens and where necessary remove them.

Richard Boon, manager: biodiversity planning environmental planning and climate protection department, eThekwini Municipality, said there are a number of trees, climbers and herbaceous plants commonly seen in Durban gardens on the DEA listing which either have to be removed or controlled according to their listed category (SEE BOX).

• Species that must be combated or eradicated: Lollipop Climber.

• Species that must be controlled : Coral bush, Camphor tree, Indian laurel, Goose foot, Lebbeck tree, Madeira vine, Creeping inch plant, Surinam cherry, Kahili ginger lily, Chinese wax-leaved privet, Pickerel weed, Queensland umbrella tree, Brazilian pepper tree, Climbing cassia and Yellow bells.

• Species that have amenity value but may no longer be planted , propagated , imported or traded: African flame tree and Forget-me-not tree.

Environmentalist Wally Menne said Indian laurels and Syringa trees were among the problem alien invasives in central Durban. “And Triplaris americana (Ant tree) are all over the place. These are very ornamental, the flowers turn pink and people think they are pretty but the wind spreads the seeds everywhere.

“In Hillcrest and Kloof there is a different mix of species,” said Menne. “The old Camphor trees planted by the early settlers are spreading everywhere and the birds spread the seeds.

“Particularly bad in Hillcrest is Toxicodendron succedaneum,” said Menne, commonly known as the Japanese wax tree and listed as 1b. “Their leaves turn a luminous orange-red at this time of year and you can see them everywhere at the moment.”

A list of invasive plants provided by Janet Gates, chief horticulturalist at Durban’s Botanical Gardens, included many of the same species identified by Boon and Menne plus Blood berry, Common mulberry and Erect sword fern, Water lettuce, Dutchman’s Pipe, Balloon Vine Thorn and Invading ageratum.

According to Invasive Alien Plants in KwaZulu-Natal published by the KZN branch of the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa), Cat’s claw creeper is a particular problem in Pietermaritzburg and the Midlands. Both frost- and drought-resistant, it has escaped from gardens and invaded forests and urban open spaces. “These creepers grow to enormous lengths and can scale tall trees in a dense mass” in some cases killing the host tree.

• DEA spokesperson Zolile Nqayi downplayed yesterday’s Witness report of R5 million fines being issued for property sellers failing to inform purchasers of the presence of listed invasive species on their property as a condition of sale. He said these were “maximum penalties that could apply in severe cases, such as deliberately smuggling an invasive species into the country”.

Nqayi said the law provides for notices and directives to be issued to land-owners. “Should that fail, a legal process should be followed. A fine, as deemed appropriate by the court, may be imposed.”

“What is also relevant is that the government has spent billions of rands in helping land-owners to deal with the most serious invasives on their land, and has committed a further R4,2 billion to this end.”

•Acknowledgments: Invasive Alien Plants in KwaZulu-Natal, published by Wessa-KZN

• Stephen.Coan@witness.co.za

Category 1

1a listed species must be combated or eradicated

1b listed must be controlled.

Category 2

These are plant species with commercial or utility value, which may only be grown with a permit under controlled circumstances in a demarcated area.

Category 3

These are plant species that have amenity value but may no longer be planted, propagated, imported or traded.

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