SUCH A PRETTY ALIEN

Many alien plants that have become such a nuisance that they have to be actively eradicated in places are pretty. Doubtless it is their attractiveness that encouraged people to import them for their gardens in the first place. Yet, most of our common garden flowers have originated from elsewhere and no-one turns a hair, so what makes an ‘alien’ an ‘alien’ that becomes known as a ‘noxious weed’ or an ‘alien invasive’?  When the rate at which they spread, the harm they do to natural vegetation, and the potential risk they hold for animals and humans become a problem.

Common lantana (Lantana camara) is one such pretty alien.

It originated in tropical America and has spread alarmingly all over the world. In South Africa, both the Eastern Cape and Kwa-Zulu Natal are particularly affected by the infestation of these plants which were originally imported as an ornamental garden shrub. There is no denying the beauty of their multi-coloured yellow-orange flowers.

Birds eat the fruits and in this way the plants have moved from gardens to the veld. Therein lies the problem: this plant is one of the most common causes of livestock poisoning in this country and is thus classified as a Category 1b invasive alien species in the South African National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act of 2004. This means that they have to be removed and destroyed as part of an invasive species control programme.

Common lantana spreads and grows so rapidly that it out-competes indigenous plants by forming dense thickets. These reduce natural pasturage – which obviously affects the amount of grazing available, access to water supplies and severely reduces biodiversity.

References:

Henderson Mayda and Anderson Johan G. Common Weeds in South Africa. Department of Agricultural Technical Services 1966.

Van Wyk Ben-Erik, van Heerden Fanie and van Oudtshoorn Bosch. Poisonous Plants of South Africa. Briza Publications 2005.

https://www.farmersweekly.co.za/animals/horses/be-wary-of-the-lantana/

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37 thoughts on “SUCH A PRETTY ALIEN

    • They were popular garden plants here once too. Interestingly, there are indigenous lantana here – not as showy, but pretty nonetheless.

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  1. With a few exceptions I am trying my darndest to remove anything alien.
    This ( former?) obsession that things from “overseas” , and this includes plants, were obviously better drives me spare.
    It is so colonial.
    The diversity of flora in this country is almost second to none.
    Why the ‘need’ to have European ‘stuff’ is ridiculous.

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    • I am greatly enjoying the diversity of our natural flora this spring: from the Eastern- through to the Western Cape as seen on our recent trip. We have truly beautiful flowers here, so I am for indigenous planting all the way!

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  2. Hi Anne, great post of awareness for this invasive plant. Lantana is a Weed of National Significance,t is regarded as one of the worst weeds in Australia because of its invasiveness, potential for spread, and economic and environmental impacts.

    Foxglove is extremely poisonous. All plant parts must be handled with extreme care. Foxglove is able to rapidly spread and totally exclude native flora and fauna.

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    • Ops, sent that before finishing – unbelievably Foxglove is not currently a declared weed in Tasmania, but the way it is spreading and dominating native bushland, it is as big a threat as Lantana.

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      • Gosh, so you have this Lantana problem too! I think conditions in South Africa are probably too arid for foxgloves to become a problem – we have indigenous ones which look very different. Thank you for your support on this issue 🙂

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      • Are these the same as the foxgloves found in the UK? They are indigenous here, and aren’t invasive at all. Maybe we have things that eat them and help keep them under control.

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    • We always need to bear in mind that we probably know more (have developed a greater awareness) than the people who first imported plants such as this. Now we need to control them.

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    • They are very pretty indeed. Our indigenous lantana is not too bad and there are a number of cultivated varieties available from nurseries that are very attractive too.

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  3. The problem with importing alien plants (and animals, too, for that matter) is that the things that keep them under control in their native lands, such as things that eat them, are not around in the new lands and so they can spread indiscriminately. Take rabbits in Australia, or rats in New Zealand (and elsewhere) where they have harmed populations of flightless birds.

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  4. They are very common here in India. As you know I had one in my garden as ‘butterfly bait’. The garden variety got from nurseries don’t attract butterflies or bees, only the wild one does.

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    • I recall some of your lovely photographs of them with butterflies. I am fascinated that the cultivated ones from nurseries are spurned by butterflies and bees – how strange!

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    • Your commenting that Lantana is “such a butterfly magnet” is in sharp contrast to Shail’s comment above that the plants from nurseries seem to be spurned by butterflies.

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  5. Such a pity that the colonists didn’t realise how harmful it would be to import plants and creatures from home. Hopefully we can eventually erradicate this beautiful but harmful plant!

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    • There are similar problems with alien vegetation the world over, but you are right: if we each keep our own patches ‘clean’ it must help a little in the long run.

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