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The seven worst creepers and vines in Mpumalanga

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Invasive alien plants are regarded as one of the most important threats to biodiversity in the Kruger National Park (KNP). Creepers and vines have been found in KNP rest camps and villages. Below is a list of invasive vines and creepers which are found in the KNP.

Alien invasive plants pose one of the biggest and most problematic threats to the long-term integrity of the Kruger National Park.

Some of the problematic creepers and vines in the KNP include:

1. Pereskia (Pereskia aculeata) – Category 1b

Pereskia escaped from plantings as ornamentals or security hedges and is now invading forest margins and gaps in plantations. It clambers up into trees and forms masses of vegetation in the canopies that block out sunlight and cause trees to collapse under the sheer weight of the plant.The Kruger National Park is threatened by pereskia infestations resulting in a large amount of resources being used to try control the weed.

2. Coral creeper (Antigonon leptopus) – Category 1b

The coral creeper is a climbing plant originating from Mexico and Central America. It is known from Skukuza in the Kruger National Park, where its spreading outside of the camp’s boundaries. This plant invades coastal and inland bush and thicket. Its leaves also dry out and drop during the dry season, thereby providing additional fuel for damaging fires.

3. Potato creeper (Solanum seaforthianum) – Category 1b

This plant is spread rapidly and its red fruits are highly sought after by birds and mammals. This species is believed to be originally from Mexico, Central America, The Caribbean, south-eastern USA and tropical South America. It overtops and smothers other species. Indigenous birds could neglect the dispersal of indigenous plants as a consequence of their preference for the fruits of this alien species.

4. White moonflower (Ipomoea alba) – Category 1b

White moonflower was first discovered by invasive species specialists invading invading the stream that runs through the Skukuza Staff village in the Kruger National Park in the north eastern corner of South Africa. Conservationists indicated that from Skukuza, it spread into the riverine bush of alongside the Crocodile and Sabie River. Today, white moonflower (Ipomoea alba) is still to be found lurking in gardens as an ornamental climber.

5. Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia elegans) – Category 1b

This is a weed of the hedges and riverine bush in the K.N.P. It is found far North as far as the Limpopo River. It was widely cultivated as a garden ornamental on account of its unusual flowers. A vigorous climber with stems usually growing up to 3m long, but occasionally reaches up to 7m or more in height.

6. Cat’s claw creeper (Dolichandra unguis-cati) – Category 1b

This is a woody, evergreen creeper that has become a significant threat to biodiversity in many sensitive ecosystems in Mpumalanga. The weed has escaped from the staff village and formed some very dense infestations in the K.N.P.

7. Balloon vine (Cardiospermum grandiflorum) – Category 1b

Originating from tropical South America (Brazil and Eastern Argentina), the balloon vine invades riparian zones (riverine areas and wetlands) across the Mpumalanga province. The vine spread rapidly by seeds and smothers indigenous vegetation – impacting negatively upon biodiversity.

What does the law say?

The law says all species listed under Category 1b on the National List of Invasive Species must be removed. Land occupiers are legally obliged to control these species, or to remove and destroy them if possible. No trade or planting is allowed. Plants listed above form part of the 379 terrestrial plants that are listed under Alien and Invasive Species Regulations (AIS), National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (NEMBA) (Act No 10 of 2004).

National List of Invasive Species (in terms of Section 70 (1) (A)) includes 556 invasive species which are divided into 4 categories, 1a, 1b, 2 and 3.
*Terrestrial and Fresh-water Plants (379); *Marine Plants (4); *Mammals (41); *Birds (24); *Reptiles (30); *Amphibians (7); *Fresh-water Fish (15); *Terrestrial Invertebrates (23); *Fresh-water Invertebrates (9); *Marine Invertebrates (17) and *Microbial Species (7).