Ornamental, but invasive, poisonous

2013-10-07 00:00

CROFTON Weed (Agaratina adenophora) is native to Central America and was introduced to South Africa as an ornamental plant for use in gardens.

It is a perennial evergreen shrub that can grow to a height of two metres, although it is usually half that size. The leaves are quite broad, dark green, rather triangular in shape and with three strong veins arising from the base. The leaves are not aromatic when crushed and so cannot be easily confused with a close relative, the chromoleana, the leaves of which have a distinctive turpentine or paraffin smell when crushed.

The attractive flowers are white and occur in terminal clusters. Flowering takes place between August and December. This species is a problem plant, particularly in the Pietermaritzburg area and throughout the KZN Midlands. Fine examples may be found in Queen Elizabeth Park and other public places in the Pietermaritzburg area. Unfortunately, reports suggest that the range is expanding. This plant invades roadsides, stream banks, forest margins and plantations, where infestations may be very dense and dominate indigenous plants. It grows from seeds and regenerates strongly from cut stems.

This species is considered poisonous. Unfortunately, there are no currently registered herbicides for this plant.

Because it is closely related to chromoleana, it is likely that prescriptions aimed at that plant will also be effective on Crofton weed. Young plants are best controlled by pulling them up, roots and all.

(Botanical Society of South Africa)

— jasonlondt@telkomsa.net


This is the third in a series of articles on invasive alien plants. The Inland Branch of the Botanical Society wants to promote the eradication of such plants. It may be useful to explain some of the terms used in these articles. “Alien” means anything not native to our country. Not all alien plants are invasive (only three percent are) and many are useful. The opposite of “alien” is “indigenous”, and use of such plants is encouraged. The term “endemic” is particularly important. Endemic plants are those that actually grow naturally in your area. For various good reasons, it is preferable to cultivate plants that are endemic. This column is intended to assist readers to identify plants that need to be destroyed (Cara Category 1 plants). 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, while more information is available on the Agricultural Research Council’s website (www.arc.agric.za).

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