Eyecatching... but an alien

2018-10-31 06:02
The Cats Claw Creeper grows along the stems of healthy plants, draining their nutrients.

The Cats Claw Creeper grows along the stems of healthy plants, draining their nutrients.

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ITS brilliant yellow flowers seen throughout the town catches the eye — but it is a dangerous alien.

The Cats Claw Creeper is an aggressive, illegal, South American creeper strangling indigenous flora.

The creeper grows along the stems of other healthy plants and drains nutrients from them. It gets its name from its three pronged, claw-like climbing appendages.

According to horticulturalists at the National Botanical Gardens in Pietermaritzburg, Cat’s Claw was introduced to South Africa as an ornamental plant. Since then, it has invaded large areas, to the detriment of indigenous plants, and is not easy to treat as it produces a series of underground tubers which are extremely difficult to eradicate.

In addition to producing seeds that are spread by wind and water, the Cat’s Claw also reproduces vegetatively, through its extensive root system. A spokesman for SANBI said: “Cutting it back before seeding will prevent spread to some extent, but the plant will regrow from the underground tubers. The most effective way of controlling it is to pull down the vine and apply a glycophosate-based herbicide to the leaves, and then put these into a black refuse bag so that the herbicide can be translocated to the roots and tubers.”

The problem is that the public see the brilliant flowers and think it is pretty — not realising the devastation to natural vegetation.

Cat’s Claw has been declared a category one alien invader plant, this is the strictest category. These plants may not occur on any land or inland water surface other than in a biological control reserves. One may not plant, maintain, multiply or propagate such plants, import or sell or acquire propagating material of such plants.

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