A threat to local biodiversity: the pompom weed

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An important part of any sustainable habitat is its biodiversity. We need to preserve it in natural areas and are encouraged to increase it in managed or landscaped areas such as our gardens. This is why you’ll often hear advice to plant a variety of plants to encourage birds and bugs into your garden. 

So it might come as a surprise that we're now going to tell you to do something quite contrary - to look out for and remove specific plants: alien invader plants.

Exotic and invasive plants

There are many exotic plants that have been brought over to South Africa over the years, sometimes because they were useful for economic purposes (think Blue Gum trees), but often they just ended up here as an ornamental plants in someone’s garden. Many have found our climate so wonderful and with no natural predators here they have found their way out of our gardens and into natural areas, growing in abandon next to our roads, taking over the open veld and clogging our rivers.

The trouble is that some of these plants literally take over their new habitat, supressing or even replacing our indigenous plants, resulting in a decline in biodiversity. In fact, worldwide, the spread of exotics, or biological pollution, is one of the greatest threats to the earth’s biodiversity.1

Not all exotic plants are invasive however, so don’t go ripping out all your non-indigenous plants in your garden! There are a specific few that have been labelled Category 1 alien invaders/weeds which have been 'outlawed' under the Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (CARA), 1983 (Act 43 of 1983). These plants are prohibited and must be eradicated – and these are the ones we’re calling on you to keep an eye out for.

Today we’re going to focus on just one on the list that the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens highlighted in their February newsletter: The Pompom weed.

Pompom weed

Botanically known as Campuloclinium macrocephalum, the pompom weed comes from South America. It’s quite pretty, with attractive pink/purple flowers upon tall stalks, but it poses a huge threat to grassland biomes and wetlands. It is currently spreading extremely fast in Gauteng especially on the West Rand. The plant spreads very easily via seed – one plant is capable of producing more than 300 seeds – and it can also regenerate from underground rhizomes.

Control

There are a number of organisations (see below) working hard to eradicate and/or control alien invasive plants, using an arsenal of tools including registered herbicides, biological control and good old hard labour. In the case of pompom weed, all three come into play and care needs to be taken when destroying the above-ground parts of the plant.

What you can do

First; learn to identify the plant correctly – we’ve added some pics to guide you, but you can find more information herehere and here

Second; if you have this plant growing in your garden or on your property you are encouraged to remove it immediately. The physical methods of removal include uprooting and burning of the plant. Please note that removed or cut vegetation needs to be burned or the weed will continue to propagate. 3 herbicides are also available on the market for dealing with larger stands of plants. For full information on removing and managing pompom weed, click here.

Lastly, if you notice it sneaking its way into any of our National Gardens or parks, please be sure to notify the relevant authorities – as the landowner is responsible, they should be the first person to be informed. Alternatively, contact your local municipality or send a report to the Early Detection and Rapid Response team at SANBI (alienplants@sanbi.org.za) so that they can deal with it appropriately.

Likewise if you spot it alongside any roadways or in open land, take a note of the area and road you’re on (GPS co-ordinates are preferable) and please report it so that we can preserve our natural biodiversity.

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Related websites and more information:

 

1 Problem Plants and Alien Weeds of South Africa by Clive Bromilow  

Images via Riaan Stals – Ispot.org.za, KormorantSANBIGerda van Schalkwyk - Flickr 

Comments

Are the two related and do they fall under the same category; Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act (CARA), 1983 (Act 43 of 1983)? It would be interesting to know.

The Pompom or Pompon Tree (Dais cotinifolia) is not related to the Pompom weed at all. The Pompon Tree is a well-loved indigenous South African Tree which you'll find in many gardens across the country. Find out more about it here: http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantcd/daiscotonifolia.htm.

Thanks for your question!

Great post Tracy! I'll try remember to look out for this plant.

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