Attractive yellow bells are a menace in our ecosystem

2014-01-23 00:00

YELLOW bells (Techoma stans ) is a highly attractive, densely leafed, evergreen shrub or small tree (up to six metres high). Otherwise called geelklokkies (Afrikaans) and insimbi (Zulu), the plant was introduced, like many of our alien invasive plants, from the United States for ornamental purposes.

Its bright-green leaves (with paler undersides) occur in variable clusters of five to 13 and have sharply toothed margins. The bright-yellow showy, trumpet-shaped flowers are five centimetres long, occur in terminal clusters, and give the species its common name. Flowering is from October to May. Flowers are similar in general appearance to those of the cat’s-claw creeper, a plant in the same family (Bignoniaceae). The seed pods are shiny brown, some 20 cm long and contain many papery-winged seeds that are dispersed by wind. This is a problem plant throughout KwaZulu-Natal. It reproduces easily from seed and invades rocky places in subtropical and tropical savannah. It has also invaded road sides, watercourses and urban open spaces. Like all invasive aliens, it competes successfully with indigenous plants. The plants are tolerant to both frost and shade — although they prefer full sun. While no herbicides are registered for the plant there are chemical means available to control it. Of great importance is the collection and destruction of seeds.

• Jason Londt (Botanical Society of South Africa) —

IN this series of articles the Inland Branch of the Botanical Society is endeavouring to promote the eradication of alien invasive plants by helping concerned citizens recognise the more important species.

As the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act makes it an offence to harbour invasive alien plants on your property, it is the responsibility of everyone to play a part in ensuring that these are effectively eliminated. By outcompeting indigenous plants, alien invasive plants not only threaten our floral heritage, but impact our ecosystems negatively. Not only that, they are usually thirsty plants and can have a very negative impact on our precious water resources. 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. The focus is on the most important plants (Category 1), which are listed on the Agricultural Research Council’s website (, and citizens are urged to report infestations to the appropriate authority.

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