Jungle vine hunt is on
Flashy scarlet flowers are the trademark of a South American jungle vine threatening to smother native bush around Wellington.
Bomarea caldasii is on Greater Wellington Regional Council’s list of pest plants. The hunt for it is across the region and GWRC staff need your help to find it.
Biosecurity officer Ben Winder said the yellow-red trumpet-like flowers and lush leaves once made bomarea a popular ornamental plant in garden centres.
‘‘However, its rampant growth and ability to smother and collapse even large trees has led to it being banned from sale. It is also illegal to propagate or distribute.’’
Flowers later turn into bright orange fleshy berries. Birds eat the berries and seeds and spread the plant. Bomarea is shadetolerant and can take over all levels of a forest canopy including the ground. Once it has climbed up a tree it creates a huge dense mass of vegetation that can weigh the tree down and topple it over.
It does not allow any other species to grow due to creating low light and its thick root systems. Bomarea is a real problem in other parts of New Zealand such as Canterbury, where it is increasingly becoming established in native forest.
‘‘There is no reason why it will not do the same here unless we do something about it,’’ Mr Winder said. ‘‘It has the potential to take over and destroy our native bush areas around Wellington and Wairarapa.’’
The plant is difficult to kill as it grows a mass of fleshy underground roots. A new plant is capable of growing from a fragment of this root material, and the dumping of garden rubbish is one way it is spread.
‘‘We rely a lot on the public to help us out by letting us know of sites,’’ Mr Winder said.
‘‘With people’s help, we may be able to keep this pest plant in check.’’
Public enemy: The regional council needs the community’s help to stamp out this all-smothering jungle vine.