Kloof Conservancy alien busters

2016-06-07 06:00
Photo: supplied ‘Tithonia diversifolia’.

Photo: supplied ‘Tithonia diversifolia’.

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MIEKE VAN TIENHOVEN

THE bright yellow flowers of the Mexican sunflower or tree marigold (Tithonia diversifolia) are highly conspicuous at this time of year. Although a dazzling sight on the roadside, along rail reserves and river banks, these alien plants are highly invasive as they form dense colonies that are difficult to control once established. Their height at maturity (3m) allows them to compete vigorously with indigenous vegetation, and they are able to quickly colonise disturbed areas.

As a Category 1b invasive species, Mexican sunflowers should be removed and destroyed. Ideally they should be removed manually before they can seed, and repeated follow-ups will be needed to control the seedlings.

The yellow flowers, which resemble sunflowers, are carried on long stalks which are swollen and velvety below the flower head. After flowering (April to June), the seeds are borne in a round, spiky mass which is also conspicuous. Once ripe, the seeds are spread by the wind.

Kloof Conservancy urges residents to ensure that they are not harbouring any of the listed alien invasive species, such as the Mexican sunflower, on their properties. Keeping property clear of invasive alien plants not only encourages our own biodiversity, but makes it easier to comply with environmental legislation when selling. All Organs of State, which includes municipalities and entities such as Transnet, are required to control invasive alien plants as well.

Alternative indigenous species that can be planted instead of the Mexican sunflower are the bush tickberry (Chrysanthemoides monilifera) or showy thistle (Euryops tysonii). Many plants from the Senecio genus also bear bright cheerful-yellow blooms and can be planted instead. Ask your nursery for indigenous options that are well suited to our conditions and that provide food and refuge for our local wildlife.

For more information contact Mieke on amvantienhoven@gmail.com - Mieke van Tienhoven.

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