Know your alien plants

2016-03-02 06:00
Photo: sourced Pereskia.

Photo: sourced Pereskia.

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LITSEA and Pereskia, two alien plant invaders in the Amanzimtoti to Umkomaas area, are considered a national disaster because of the way they are taking over and destroying the biodiversity in this area.

“Litsea is extremely aggressive,” says Gill van Wyk, an expert on alien invader plants.
“One plant can easily multiply into 40 plants within 12 months. Pereskia (also known as Barbados Gooseberry) covers the top of a forest and stops birds from flying in, effectively killing the forest.”

They are both listed as Category 1 alien plant invaders. This is the strictest category in terms of the Alien and Invasive Species Regulations of 2014. The legal requirements according to the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (Nemba) are such that these plants need to be removed and/or eradicated as much as possible.

The best and most effective time to tackle Litsea and Pereskia is in their infancy. By the time they are fully grown trees they become a bigger challenge to eradicate. “However,” explains van Wyk, “we need to know what we’re looking for because in their infancy, Litsea looks like an Avocado tree and Pereskia looks like a Bougainvillea.” When removing Litsea, the young plants can be pulled out of the ground (this is up to the height of about half a metre). Alternatively, the root should be cut off about six inches below ground level.

With adult Litsea plants, once the plant is cut down the stump must be painted with herbicide. There are strict regulations using herbicides on or near water courses – a specific herbicide such as Aquaquat should be used in these conditions. Garlon is recommended for normal garden use. Herbicide application should be done within 20 minutes of cutting because it takes that long for the tree to seal and “heal” itself.

“Removing Pereskia is a slightly more challenging process,” says van Wyk. “Tackling it while it is young is easier because the thorns are smaller and so the plant is easier to handle. Once it is an adult, the thorns are quite vicious,” she said.

Pereskias need to be killed with herbicide, applying the same method as with Litsea by painting herbicide over exposed areas within 20 minutes of cutting. Branches that have been removed must be bagged and allowed to rot before either disposing of the contents to landfill or using the rotten plant as mulch.

“If the cut branches are disposed of immediately after removing them from the main plant, they will easily propagate wherever they land,” she added.

If you would like to learn more about identifying and eradicating alien plants, contact Gill van Wyk at shackleton1@telkomsa.net or 071 403 0320. - Supplied.

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