Like ticks, it is everywhere

2013-08-15 00:00

LANTANA (Lantana camera) is probably the most researched weed in the world and familiar to everyone. The species has a variety of common names, including cherry pie and tickberry, and it is called ubhici in Zulu.

The flowers are attractive and variable in colour (pink, red, yellow, orange, white). The species is native to Central and South America, and it was brought to South Africa for ornamental use and for hedging. These plants are scramblers, growing to about two to three metres. The stems are square in cross section and covered in rows of small thorns. The leaves are dark green and have a strong smell when crushed. The shiny green fruits turn black when ripe (look like ticks engorged with blood). The plants flower all year round, except in frost-prone areas where flowering takes place during the warmer months. Lantana is highly invasive and although some insects, including butterflies, find the flowers attractive, these plants should be eliminated. Small plants can be pulled out by hand, while larger ones should be sprayed with one of the many registered herbicides available. We do have an indigenous, non-invasive species, which has purple flowers, smooth stems (not prickly) and leaves that don’t have a strong smell when crushed.

• jasonlondt@telkomsa.net

Environment: learn which the nasties are

EVERY environmentally aware person should be aware of the devastating impact that invasive alien plants have on our environment.

Although the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (Cara) makes provision for the protection of our indigenous vegetation and promotes the elimination of weeds and invasive plants, few people fully understand the implications of allowing these plants to grow on their property. This column is dedicated to informing readers about some of the most important and easily recognised alien invasive weeds (Cara Category 1 plants), with a view to alerting them to the real need to eliminate them. One species is to be featured every month, during the season when it is most likely to be flowering, and readers are urged to become familiar with the plants featured, and encouraged to take steps to eliminate them from their properties. Articles written by Dr Jason Londt, under the banner of the Botanical Society of South Africa, are based on the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA-KZN) handbook titled Invasive Alien Plants in KwaZulu-Natal: Management and Control, available from most bookshops, and illustrated with photographs taken by him. More information on Cara can be found on the Agricultural Research Council’s website (www.arc.agric.za).

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