Bugweed swallows Ferncliffe reserve

2017-07-05 13:45
: Concerned local Dave Ellapen inspects one of the thousands of bugweed plants smothering the indigenous plants in the Ferncliffe Reserve off Townbush Road.

: Concerned local Dave Ellapen inspects one of the thousands of bugweed plants smothering the indigenous plants in the Ferncliffe Reserve off Townbush Road. (Ian Carbutt)

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A sea of bugweed has swallowed Ferncliffe reserve.

The alien invasive plant has almost completely taken over the once breathtaking Pietermaritzburg leisure spot, creating potential fire hazards and a new haven for vagrants.

The Ferncliffe Reserve, just off Townbush Road, once a beloved spot for family outings, hiking trails and picnics, has been invaded by the alien plants growing throughout the reserve, leaving little chance of survival for much of the indigenous fauna and flora there.

Concerned local and a once regular visitor to the reserve, Dave Ellapen, said other alien invasive plants, such as Wild Ginger, Latana and Cat’s Claw creeper were also spreading rapidly through the area. “The whole hill is just covered in bugweed,” said Ellapen.

“All the seeds fall into the river and flow downstream and are distributed to other areas. Ferncliffe was so beautiful and it is just finished because of the bugweed,” he said.

“People cannot even use the hiking trails as they are so congested with the bugweed. You are unable to get to Breakfast Rock or Sunset Rock.

“Some of the bugweed is six or seven metres high.”

He added that the reserve was occasionally used by vagrants and he is worried that criminals would be next to move in to the area. “About 15 or 20 years ago, this place was always so busy, especially over the weekend, but not anymore,” said Ellapen.

Duzi Umngeni Conservation Trust (Duct) general manager Doug Burden said the uncontrollable bugweed swallowing Ferncliffe Reserve was a disgrace. He said Duct had a small team working at the top of the reserve to remove the bugweed, but more needed to be done.

“Now that NCT’s contract [to oversee forestry areas around the city] has been terminated, it is anyone’s guess who is going to look after the firebreaks and eradicate the alien invasive plants,” he said.

Burden said with the arrival of the winter season, work needed to happen immediately. “It is a disappointment,” said Burden.

He said that the work to eradicate the alien plants and look after the firebreaks needed to be co-ordinated and done properly.

Burden added that the rapid growth of the bugweed in the reserve meant vagrants and criminals might use the reserve more. Walking into the reserve yesterday, The Witness saw the vast expanse of the bugweed growing on the trails and in the heart of the reserve.

In the reserve on a small plot of land surrounded by trees, the remnants of fires believed to be lit by vagrants using fallen logs and sticks could be seen.

On the dirt road leading into the reserve, one can see the start of illegal dumping, with masses of cardboard boxes, garden refuse and household rubbish scattered along the verges of the road.

Thobeka Mafumbatha, Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson, said they would be investigating the matter.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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