Become an invasive species spotter


Cape Town – Go Wild For Life is the theme for this year’s World Environment Day, which will be marked on June 5.

Organised by the UN Environment Programme, World Environment Day “gives a human face to environmental issues and enables people to realise not only their responsibility, but also their power to become agents for change”.

How can local gardeners protect indigenous flora and fauna? Removing invasive species and assisting in local Spotter Network campaigns is a start.

The Spotter Network campaign is managed by the Green Jobs Unit at the City of Cape Town. It is a programme offering every resident an opportunity to contribute to managing emerging invasive species. All you need to do is to sign up with the Spotter Network ( and report any sightings of target plants.

What is a target plant? A list of target species was compiled with input from botanical experts such as Dr Tony Rebelo, who has extensive knowledge of plant invasions.

Target species are not, as yet, widely established in the Cape metropole. That means there is still a chance to get the species on the list under control and even remove them completely on certain sites but to do this we need to know where they are. This is where spotters have an important role to play.

The list is not static but gets updated as information become available. Ongoing research results in more target species being added to the list.

Under the law, “control” means the systematic removal of all visible specimens of an alien or invasive species from within a specified area of or the whole of the country.


Target species


Begin by looking for three of the most easily identifiable target species:

* Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) is a category 1b invader. Gardeners who have fountain grass on their pavements exacerbate the situation as its seeds lodge in tyres.

* Spanish broom (Spartium junceum) is ubiquitous outside the city but there is a plan to remove outstanding bushes from within the city boundaries.

* Devil’s beard (Centranthus ruber) was once known as pink valerian or “kiss me over the garden gate”. Renamed devil’s beard, the plant has taken over in Clovelly.


Emerging invaders

The wild sunflower, blue bell creeper and Madeira vine are species that have caused havoc in other areas of the world. Their recent appearance in Cape Town is very worrying and they have been added to the target list.

* Wild sunflower (Verbesina encelioides) was first spotted in the Bothasig and Hazendal areas in 2014 by members of the Custodians for Rare and Endangered Wildlife. The plants were removed before they set seed. This is the first time that the wild sunflower had ever been recorded in the Western Cape.

* Madeira vine (Anredera cordifolia). The first call to locate all specimens of the evergreen vine native to tropical South America were issued in April last year.


* Blue bell creeper (Billardiera heterophylla). 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.

Residents were asked to report sightings of the internationally notorious invasive Australian bluebell creeper in October. The creeper is identified by its delicate blue, bell-shaped flowers.

“We 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,” says Johan van der Merwe, mayoral committee member for energy, environmental and spatial planning.



Invasive wasps

Whilst the wasp season is drawing to a close, residents are still asked to report sightings of invasive European paper wasp (Polistes dominula) and the German wasp (Vespula germanica).

This summer the City of Cape Town wasp control teams removed 2 500 wasp nests. In total, over 9 000 European paper wasp nests have been removed by the teams in the core areas of infestation such as Durbanville, Kuils River, Brackenfell, Kraaifontein and Bellville.


The German wasp in particular is aggressive and their stings are very painful.


How residents can assist

The city asks residents to assist by doing the following:

* Report any sightings of wasps to or email [email protected] with “WASPS” in the subject line.

* Take a picture and report sightings to [email protected]

* Learn more about the plants on

* Like us on Facebook and learn more about invasive species in Cape Town:

* Learn more about invasives by going to

* Sign up for a one-day South African Green Industries Council training on invasive species, landowners and the law: Email: [email protected]

Kay Montgomery, Independent HOME


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