Over the past month I have been struck by the tall purple flowers growing near the roads I have travelled on. A closer look – I am always happy to investigate something that intrigues me – revealed the flowers to look a bit like a relative of the verbena that gardeners are fond of using as ground covers. Clearly some further investigation was required.
It turns out that these flowers are commonly called Tall Verbena (Verbena bonariensis) and what has really surprised me is that, far from it being an indigenous plant as I had imagined, it is actually classed as an invasive alien in many parts of the country!
Why I am taken aback by this is because I have seen it growing in the veld for years and never given it a second thought – the flowers have simply been there, occasionally waving their purple petals in the breeze but otherwise not really drawing attention from passers-by. As with so many invasive plants in this country, the Tall Verbena originates in South America and, as with others of its ilk, it grows in disturbed areas and then invades grasslands. The problem here is that it is poisonous to livestock and other grazers.
The bonus is that they are attractive to butterflies and, as this image shows, beetles too! I was attracted by this CMR beetle (actually Mylabris oculata) which is named for its similarity in colour to the uniform of the South African Cape Mounted Riflemen, which had black and yellow bands.