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City declares war on invasive plants

Johannesburg City Parks & Zoo (JCP&Z) has embarked on a massive drive to rid the city’s landscape of invasive plants that continue to have a serious impact on the environment.
This week, JCP&Z launched a major blitz to remove alien plants in open spaces and raise awareness in communities of the devastating environmental effects of these plants in the city.

JCP&Z Communications and Marketing General Manager Letta Madlala said it was important for the public to understand their environment and the types of plants that were a danger to it. She said the launch of the campaign this week was aimed at sensitising the public and starting a blitz to rid the environment of invasive plants.

“The problem is huge and we are on a mission to win this battle. We need our communities to join us and understand the importance of having a clean environment that is not invaded by alien plants,” she said.

Madlala said Johannesburg faced different types of invasive plants, classified in three categories according to their impact to the environment.

“Not every plant you see is good for your garden or landscape. Some look beautiful but are, in fact, the most dangerous. The campaign, which was first launched last year, is aimed at creating awareness and help us clear all invasive plants within our spaces,” said Madlala.

“The national Invasive Species Week started on Tuesday in Roodepoort with a clear message that says: ‘Don’t lose water or natural resources to alien and invasive species’,” said Madlala.

She said most of the invasive plants were found in the city’s northern suburbs. Areas such as Soweto were plagued mostly by weeds in their gardens and open spaces.

Madlala said the biggest challenge was posed by aquarius invasive plants, which invaded mainly rivers and wetlands. She said a number of water invaders in Johannesburg were introduced as ornamentals but had since spread to the rest of the environment, causing “a negative transformation on our water bodies”.

She said travelling across provinces also led to the transportation of invasive plants. “People pick up plants along the road or in water streams thinking they are beautiful not knowing of the dangers they pose to the environment,” Madlala said.

Invasive plants found near rivers, dams and streams include water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus), giant reed (Arundo donax) and Indian shot (Canna indica).