ACACIA LONGIFOLIA

They look attractive both from afar and from close-up. These evergreen trees have long bright green, spear-shaped leaves and are covered with bright, finger-shaped, yellow flowering heads during the winter.

The Acacia longifolia (Long-leafed Wattle) is one of several species of wattle brought to this country from Australia well over a century ago to assist with the stabilisation of sand dunes near Cape Town. They have since spread to other parts of the country, being particularly invasive in both the Eastern and the Western Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal and in parts of Mpumalanga. Such is the nature of introducing an alien species from one country to another, only to find that it not only flourishes to the detriment of indigenous vegetation but appears to have no natural predators in its new abode.

In some areas Acacia longifolia has also been planted as an ornamental shrub. Looking at the flowers, it is easy to see why.

These trees form dense, impenetrable thickets that threaten the existence of indigenous vegetation. Given that South Africa is a water-scarce country, it is concerning that the Acacia longifolia trees have spread so widely, both on hill slopes and along the country’s riparian zones. Seedlings grow very quickly – several others are visible behind the one in this photograph.

One of the methods employed to curb the rampant growth of the Acacia longifolia has been to release biological control agents, such as Trichilogaster acaciaelongifoliae, an Australian bud-galling wasp from the Chalcidoidea family that parasitizes these plants. This wasp species was introduced in 1982. They lay their eggs in the immature flower buds. Chemicals secreted by the young grubs induce bud galling. The larvae live and feed on the plant tissue inside these galls, which helps to reduce the reproductive potential of the wattle.

The Working for Water Project has made inroads by physically cutting down stands of wattle and applying herbicide to the stumps. Landowners, however, do not always seem to follow up on this initial clearing process and we can see the proliferation of these trees along the country roads we often drive along in this area.

I cannot help wondering about the future of this former grassland for these cattle to graze on.

24 thoughts on “ACACIA LONGIFOLIA

  1. Not to worry – after a few million years, the wattles will have become indigenous and perhaps baboons will become like kangaroos exploiting the wattle forests. (And humans may be planting proteas on Mars)

    Like

  2. We have several invasive plants from China that cause similar problems. It is a major problem especially since many are attractive plants but just not good for our environment.

    Like

    • The attractiveness of some invasive species can be an issue for there will always be someone who will propagate it “because it is pretty” … and so the cycle continues.

      Like

      • “Considering fast growth, sturdy trunks and minimum maintenance, profitability in timber business and external funding, forests departments in different states overwhelmingly supported this alien species for afforestation in the past.”
        It is business that drove its planting in the past. Since then there has been an awakening to its negative effects on the ecology of the region and been dubbed as ‘an explosive mine’!

        Like

  3. I just did a quick look-up about which acacia species I am seeing in California. I still don’t know; I read that there are more than 1300 species and varieties of acacia worldwide. One big grower here carries 21 species of them, including longifolia. Evidently it isn’t invasive locally: they report its being “used a lot in the freeway plantings of southern California.”

    Like

  4. Invasive species are a scourge where ever they are found. I wonder if the introduction of the “release of biological control agents, such as Trichilogaster acaciaelongifoliae, an Australian bud-galling wasp” has had some other unforeseen effects since it too is not native.

    Like

    • It has been a case of ‘so far, so good’. I think a lot of experimentation is done first these days before introducing anything willy-nilly.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.