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

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

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 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

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.

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