• Melanie Walker

Invader Consultant Course

Weed them and reap! Weeding out invasives.

A weed is just a plant that grows in the wrong place?

Not necessarily. Many ‘common’ garden plants that are to be seen in people’s gardens around the world could in that case be called weeds - if they’re growing in an area that has classified them as an ‘alien invasive species’. But that doesn’t make them weeds. Just unwelcome.

This doesn’t just apply to exotic or non-native plants either. One needs to remember that although South Africa is one country, it has many different biomes – and not everything that grows there is welcome in other provinces or biomes. Many indigenous South African plants have been deemed to be ‘invasives’ if they are now growing unchecked in other parts of the country as they are not ‘indigenous’ to the ecosystem in which they have become established. Local or not, in a small percentage of cases, introduced species take advantage of favourable conditions in new locations and wreak ecological and economic havoc in their new environments. You know what ‘weeds’ are like – give them an inch, and they’ll take your yard.

When you take into account that at least 10 million hectares, or 8.2% of our country’s land has been invaded, leading to a loss of around 6.7% of mean annual surface run off, you know something has to be done. But so few people are aware, or even seem to care, that that lovely yellow flowering creeper they have is a category 1 invader, or that carefully staked bugweed they’re so lovingly looking after has no place in their garden.

Many people take umbrage when informed they should remove certain plants. Why, they ask? It’s doing no harm to you or the land when it’s in my garden space.

Sure, not all alien species are considered harmful. Imagine if our farmers were no longer allowed to plant food crops – such as potatoes or wheat – or we couldn’t plant any carrots or tomatoes in our home veggie patch, because they aren’t indigenous.

But we are of course talking about those plants that have gone beyond being useful and have become harmful. Be it that they have a negative effect on our natural resources, by utilising more water resources to grow, or that they have a detrimental effect on human health. The main problem with these invasives, where their negative impact outweighs the benefits, is that if they’ve been introduced into an area where they didn’t evolve naturally, they have no natural enemies, and soon they take over and kill off so much of the natural flora.

Under new laws, in the same way that you need a rates clearance certificate when selling a house, you also need to get an Invasive Species Consultant to fill out a Declaration form before a house or property may be sold.

If you’re thinking of going into the Green Industry, knowing what you can and can’t have in a garden is a must. Thus getting the latest information from one of Lifestyle College’s specialist lecturers who are well versed in the undesirable species and which ones are being added to the list and why is a must. The best way to enhance research that is being done by entities such as SANBI (South African National Botanical Institute) is education. In blaming nature, people mistake the culprit. Weeds are people's idea and reason for the spread of plants from place to place, not nature.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to get yourself up to date and become an Eco-warrior, taking out the bad guys… Join us for our Invader Course which starts the 7/8/9 November – get registered or get more info - email . And don’t let the tall weeds cast a shadow on the beautiful flowers in your garden – or our country

- Melanie Walker

October 2016

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