Tip-offs about new weed help City to act quickly

Following the City of Cape Town’s communication about a new weed that was discovered in the metro, an additional 15 sightings of the wild sunflower have been reported. 

The majority of sightings were from Bellville, Brackenfell, Kuils River, Nyanga, Mfuleni and surrounds. Populations of the plant were also found in Richwood, Parklands and on the Melkbosstrand Road.

Reports from observant members of the public have helped the City of Cape Town to act fast to prevent the spread of the invasive wild sunflower (Verbesina encelioides).

The largest population has been found in Atlantis, where a recent wildfire has left the site disturbed, allowing the wild sunflower to establish in the area. If left unmanaged, the wild sunflower has the potential to take over this site and suppress the fynbos from recovering after the fire.

Preventing further spread

‘The flower heads and seeds have been removed and incinerated at all the identified sites to prevent the wild sunflower from spreading any further. Plants have been removed and all sites will be monitored to ensure that the control methods have been effective. This is an active demonstration of Cape Town’s environmentally aware community working with the local government to create a more sustainable city, together,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Economic, Environmental and Spatial Planning, Councillor Johan van der Merwe.

          

The wild sunflower was first spotted in the Bothasig and Hazendal areas by members of the Custodians for Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW). CREW reported this to the City’s Early Detection, Rapid Response (EDRR) team, which enabled the City to remove these plants before they set seed during their flowering cycle which is underway.This is the first time that the wild sunflower has been recorded in the Western Cape.

Intrusive invader

It is considered an intrusive invader because it spreads over fertile land and prevents the development of any other local plant species.

The plant is an annual herb originating from North America. It was until recently known to be found in the Northern Cape, Limpopo, North West and Mpumalanga. The wild sunflower invades roadsides, cultivated and uncultivated land, disturbed sites and sandy watercourses. It has the potential to take over the habitat of indigenous plants and its noxious toxins are a potential threat to grazing sheep and cattle.

The spotting, reporting and identification of the wild sunflower is just one example of how Capetonians can play a crucial role in the conservation of Cape Town’s unique natural areas. By being made aware of this species before it establishes itself, the EDRR programme is able to remove it before it becomes widespread around the city.

The EDRR programme – a partnership between the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the Natural Resources Management Programmes (NRMP – Working for Water), and the City – relies on the residents of Cape Town to report sightings of any of the target species as well as potential new invaders.

The wild sunflower has been added to the EDRR programme.

Residents who would like to participate in the programme can visit www.capetowninvasives.org.za Further information about invasive species and their impact can be found on www.facebook.com/ctinvasives (with a Cape Town focus).

Cape Town residents are urged to continue to report sightings of this flower to the Cape Town Invasive Species Unit. Please see: http://www.capetowninvasives.org.za/edrr/target-list