UK roots out alien animals and plants
From April next year, pet shops and garden centres found selling banned species will be fined or jailed for up to six months
THE UK has issued its first list of banned invasive species. The list contains 69 animals and 56 plants which can no longer be propagated, reared or sold in UK garden centres and pet shops. Dumping any of these species also becomes illegal.
The UK has 1 798 exotic or alien plants in the country, and UK Environment Minister Richard Benyon said tackling the effect of invasive species cost £1.7 billion (R23bn) a year.
The new list of banned species takes effect in April next year. From this date, UK garden centres and pet shops will have to stop selling these species or face a fine of up to £5 000 (R68 000), and possibly up to six months in jail.
Six of the invader species on the UK banned list are South African. Top of the list is the much-loved indigenous crocosmia or montbretia ( Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora), which is at its flowering peak in February.
Other South African species on the UK-prohibited invaders list include the succulent ice plant ( Carpobrotus edulis), African clawed toad ( Xenopus laevis), giant kelp ( Macrocystis angustifolia) and South African oxygen weed or curly waterweed ( Lagarosiphon major).
The common barn owl ( Tyto alba), which is indigenous to South Africa and Europe, is also on the list and may not be reared, traded in or imported.
California: The banning of South Africa’s indigenous crocosmia in the UK follows the listing of crocosmia as a prohibited species by the California Invasive Plant Council in 2006.
California has 4 800 indigenous plant species and an estimated 1 800 exotic or alien plants in the state. Fewer than 200 of these exotics are deemed to be a threat to the local ecosystems, and are ranked as high, medium or limited threats to ecosystems there.
By far the most threatening South African invader in California is the ice plant ( Carpobrotus edulis), which is deemed to be a high threat to coastal areas. Crocosmia and the African wild olive are only deemed to be a limited threat, while the pink winter Cape oxalis ( Oxalis prescaprae) is listed as a moderate threat.
New Zealand: The National Pest Plant Accord (2001) lists about 150 exotic or alien invader plants, all of which may not be sold, propagated or distributed in New Zealand by law.
Indigenous South African garden plants that appear on the New Zealand Pest Plant Accord list include the ice plant ( Carpobrotus edulis), Mickey Mouse plant ( Ochna serrulata), pig’s ear ( Cotyledon orbiculata), fairy crassula ( Crassula multicava), speckled spurflower or plectranthus ( Plectranthus cilliatus), sweet pea bush ( Polygala myrtifolia), Cape tulip ( Moraea flaccida) and oxygen weed ( Lagarosiphon major).
Although the standard white arum does not make the list, the spectacular green goddess arum ( Zantedeschia aethiopica “Green Goddess”), a marbled green and white hybrid of the ordinary white arum, features on the invasive list in New Zealand, where it is deemed to be a troublesome nuisance.
Australia: Australia has levels of invasive plant species legislation. There are no South African species among the country’s six worst plants that demand compulsory removal.
However, under the Weeds of National Significance legislation passed in 1999, a further 32 national invaders were identified that cannot be grown, propagated or traded.
Two South African plants, asparagus fern ( Asparagus asparagoides, A. densiflorus, A. scandens) and KwaZulu-Natal’s perennial coastal boneseed shrub or bitou bush ( Chrysanthemoides monilifera) feature on this important national list.
Known to Australians as bridal creeper, the asparagus fern ( Asparagus asparagoides) arrived in Australia with the floriculture industry 120 years ago, and is regarded as one of the most serious environmental weeds of southern Australia.
The tubers of the bridal creeper form an impenetrable mat of foliage 5-10cm deep in the forests around Adelaide. This mat is contributing to the extinction of several indigenous Australian ground orchid and forest shrub species.
Australia’s individual states also list invasive plants that pose a challenge to various regions. Among these lists are a host of Cape bulbs and tubers, including freesia, babiana, Homeria elegans, Cape moraea, watsonia, flame lily and white arum.
Other South African species declared as invasive include the African olive ( Olea africana subsp. africana), Karoo thorn ( Acacia karoo), African lovegrass ( Eragrostis curvula), the 5m-high South African blue psoralea ( Psoralea pinnata), Cape oxalis ( Oxalis pres-caprae) and umbrella sedge ( Cyperus involucratus).
Where are these South Africans deemed to be a problem?
White arums ( Zantedeschia aethiopica) are deemed a noxious invasive alien weed in Western Australia (all parts of the plant are toxic when eaten raw). They are a big problem in the area south of Perth, around the Margaret River, where they have taken over pasture space and become a danger to livestock.
Known to Australians as the “glory lily”, the South African flame lily ( Gloriosa superba) forms dense thickets on the coastal dunes of south-east Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. It is also known to be poisonous, with the rootstock being more poisonous than other parts of the plant.
Six species of South African watsonia are regarded as garden escapers. Their worst invasion is in the conservation area of Kings Park in central Perth. Watsonia colonises roadsides and is regarded as a major problem in south-west Australia, particularly in the high rainfall areas around Melbourne.
Introduced to the Brisbane Botanical Gardens in 1921, the 2.5m-high Mickey Mouse plant ( Ochna serrulata) is a regarded as a noxious garden escaper that has become a major weed in Queensland and north-east New South Wales. It is ranked 22 on the list of the worst 200 invasive alien species in southeast Queensland.
Couch grass, our indigenous Cynoden dactylon, is also regarded as indigenous to Australia.
This does not save it from being listed as a “casual alien” in southwest Australia, where it invades wetlands and river edges. COMPOST: Attend a talk on how to recycle waste and turn it into compost. Hosted by Cobus Smit. Thursday. Stodels Kenilworth at 10am and Stodels Constantia at 1pm. Contact Deirdre de Wet at 021 919 1108, or e-mail email@example.com. CAPE POINT WALK: Join a walk from INDIGENOUS GARDENING: Attend a talk by Andrea Durrheim on indigenous water-wise gardening. Thursday. Stodels Bellville at 10am and Stodels Milnerton at 1pm. Contact Deirdre de Wet at 021 919 1108, or visit www.stodels.com
COASTAL SHRUB: KwaZulu-Natal’s coastal bitou bush, or boneseed shrub, is one of Australia’s 32 Weeds of National Significance.
INDIGENOUS TREASURE: The flowering crocosmia in an all-indigenous African townhouse garden created by a team of garden designers, including Anné Cilliers, David Dorgan and Byron Leppan.
AFLAME: South African flame lily ( Gloriosa superba) forms dense thickets on coastal dunes of south-east Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.
INTERNATIONAL PROBLEM: South Africa’s ice plant ( Carpobrotus edulis) is not welcome in the UK, California, Australia or New Zealand.
BANNED: Garden centres in the UK trading in South Africa’s crocosmia ( Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora) will soon be fined £5 000, or spend six months in jail.
NIGHTMARE: Zantedeschia aethiopica (“Green Goddess”) is a hybrid of the South African white arum, and features on the invasive list in New Zealand.