MEDIA RELEASE: 11 October 2015
During Invasive Species Week, property owners will have the opportunity to learn about their role in the management of invasive plants as well as the impact of such species on their properties and the importance of fires. The first public forum will be held in Fish Hoek. Furthermore, the City’s Invasive Species Unit, is appealing to the public to report sightings of the invasive Australian bluebell creeper. It’s rapid spread is causing concern among conservationists because the smothering and displacing of indigenous vegetation could result in enormous ecological damage. This plant is also toxic and can cause skin irritations and nausea. Read more below:
In light of Invasive Species Week, which starts tomorrow, Monday 11 October, residents are invited to grow in their knowledge about invasive species and its impact on the environment by participating in discussions at the Invasive Species Forum meetings, which will be held in various areas across the city.
The invasive Australian bluebell creeper (Billardiera heterophylla) is one of the invasive species to be discussed. The City’s Invasive Species Unit is calling on residents to report sightings of this internationally notorious invasive creeper, which can be identified by its delicate blue, bell-shaped flowers.
As part of the invasive species Early Detection and Rapid Response programme, the City’s Green Jobs Unit, which includes the Invasive Species Unit, is launching a public campaign to locate known plants so that a management programme can be developed to remove them.
Invasive species are controlled by the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) (Act 10 of 2004) – Alien and Invasive Species (AIS) regulations, which were gazetted on 1 August 2014 and became law on 1 October 2014. The National Invasive Species List comprises 559 invasive species in four categories.
Invasive Species Public Forum
The first meeting of the series will be held in Fish Hoek on Tuesday 13 October at the Fish Hoek community hall from 10h30 to 12h30. The other areas will be announced once the details have been confirmed.
The topics for discussion include a landowner’s duty of care with respect to NEMBAlegislation, how to deal with the four categories of invasive species, the relationship between fire and invasive plants, how does the City of Cape Town invasive species management plan affect private and other public landowners and the City’s invasive species management programme in the Far South.
Invasive Australian Bluebell Creeper
The invasive Australian bluebell creeper (Billardiera heterophylla) is a vigorous climbing plant or shrub with branches that twine around the stems of other plants for support.
The dense foliage of the bluebell creeper smothers native vegetation, preventing natural regeneration and impacting on native fauna by changing the habitat composition denying them of food and shelter.
Conservationists are now worried that its rapid spread will cause enormous ecological damage by smothering and displacing indigenous vegetation.
The plant is also toxic and can cause skin irritations and nausea.
Hence, the City’s Invasive Species Unit is calling on residents to report sightings of this species.
In South Africa, the bluebell creeper is classified as a Category 1a invader species under the Invasive Species Regulations under NEMBA. This means that landowners must control, remove and destroy the plant - and any seed - on their property. Any form of trade or planting of this species is strictly prohibited.
Category 1a plants are highly invasive and potentially very damaging to indigenous species. For this reason, the City makes every effort to control it on municipal land and even offers assistance to private landowners to control it on private properties at no cost to the landowner.
Hout Bay invasion
In 2014, a population of bluebell creeper was discovered on Klein Leeukoppie in Hout Bay. Consisting of roughly 3 500 plants, the infestation was cleared and over 100kg of seed pods removed from the site – this amounted to over 8.3 million seeds.
The bluebell creeper can be identified by its dark, hairless green leaves of about 50mm long. The upper surface of the leaves is distinctly glossy with the under surface being lighter in colour with a prominent mid-vein. The bell-shaped flowers are 10mm long and blue-mauve (sometimes pink or white) in colour with five petals occurring in drooping clusters of between 1 to 5 flowers at the tips of the branches.
Flowers are usually seen in from September to April. The cylindrical fruits (seed pods) are 20mm long and are initially green in colour, turning purple-black when ripe. Each fruit contains numerous small, reddish-brown, sticky seeds.
The seeds are mostly dispersed by birds and small mammals that eat the fruit, or in dumped garden refuse. Dumping may also spread the plant vegetatively. This species rapidly regenerates and spreads after fire, and as it is found in the fire-prone fynbos biome of the Western Cape, it has the potential to become a serious weed.
What can the public do?
· Never dispose of the bluebell creeper as part of waste
· Take a picture and report sightings to firstname.lastname@example.org
· Learn more about the plant on www.capetowninvasives.org.za
· Like us on facebook and learn more about invasive species in Cape Town: www.facebook.com/ctinvasives
‘The City encourages residents to participate in the forums as this is an opportunity to be empowered with knowledge about invasive species, which threaten our indigenous species. The more we know, the better equipped we can be as residents to make informed choices that will benefit our environment and future generations,’ said Councillor Johan van der Merwe, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning.
‘We also appeal to the public to assist the Green Jobs Unit by actively getting involved in spotting, reporting and identifying the invasive bluebell creeper and potential new invaders, as this will contribute to conserving our indigenous plants in Cape Town.’
‘Following the analysis of the reported sightings and an applicable control programme, we are hoping that together we will be able to nip the spread of this invasive creeper in the bud so that we can enjoy the natural beauty and sustainability of our indigenous fynbos,’ said Councillor van der Merwe.