Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Alien Watch Corner

Our Farms, Veldt & Gardens at Great Risk

- Carol Tissiman -

Families that have been farming in our part of the Karoo for generations and newcomers know that scarce water is the biggest threat to agriculture and horticulture in our region. Contributing to the scarcity of water is the growing invasion of alien plants. Of the over 9000 alien or exotic plants growing in South Africa, 198 of these are now listed as invasive aliens and more than 150 species are soon to be added to the list.

Over the next few months the Friend will be running a series of articles to highlight some of the alien plants which we find in the Prince Albert area, and which should be removed. We plan to give guidelines on best methods of removal, and we will provide a list of some suggested plants with which to replace these aliens.

Why are invasive aliens a problem?
According to the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry’s (DWAF) Working for Water programme, aliens
  • Are highly adaptable vigorous growers
  • Have invaded ten million hectares of land (about the size of KZN)
  • Use 3,3 billion cubic metres of water more than their indigenous counterparts
  • Threaten our rich biodiversity (which affects insects, and hence also birds, reptiles, mammals that feed on them)
  • Invade land, better used for crops and livestock grazing
  • Increase the probability of fires, flooding, erosion and siltation
  • Are often toxic to humans or mammals.

Removing aliens helps to conserve our local natural heritage, its sustainability being so much under threat. Human interventions have destroyed certain aspects of the natural environment, upsetting the balance and reducing its diversity, and ultimately its health.

What can we do as Prince Albert town dwellers?
One of the things we can do is use appropriate indigenous plants in our gardens, those that will survive with less water and benefit other species such as other indigenous plants, and birds. This has become an important issue, with the expansion of our built up environment.

If you’d like to join in removing invasive aliens growing in the public spaces – e.g. cactuses invading our very special Gordon’s Koppie – please call Carol or Dorrien on 023 5411-093.

This month our alien watch has noticed literally thousands of tecoma stans (yellow bells, geel klokkies) in Prince Albert. This ornamental densely leafy evergreen shrub/small tree has abundant long seed pods, and large bunches of beautiful yellow bell-shaped flowers. It possibly originated from Mexico or South USA. This is a Category 1 weed- this means it is prohibited and officially must be removed if it occurs on your property.

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