Living in the serenity of the Haenertsburg area, we all have something in common – we appreciate beauty! The changing summer landscape coloured with different shades of green, on closer examination reveal much more - more colour and more variety.
As a community we acknowledge the value of our surroundings in several public meetings. Consequently we have agreed on the conservation of Grasslands – the pristine and serene surroundings – as a priority to future generations and ourselves! The Haenertsburg Environmental Management and Action Group (HEMAG) with help from of HADEF have been granted funding from the National Lotteries Board to assist our community in achieving this goal!
Beauty is not absolute, but hidden in the mosaic of greens can be the very threat to our pristine surroundings - Invasive Alien Plants! Alien plants refer to all plants that are not natural to our area and country. Not all Alien Plants are invasive. Invasive Alien plants are those that threaten the existence of our indigenous flora and fauna. These plants pose a serious threat to our serendipity and therefore Grasslands!
Grasslands are renown for their richness in species and diversity of life, certainly something that we would not like to change. Above all they are primary sources of water catchments, acting as sponges and slowly releasing water to keep our crystal springs clear all year round. Unfortunately our local streams and grasslands are becoming infested with Invasive Alien plants, many of which are declared weeds. Declared weeds are plants which are prohibited by law and have to be removed. The Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act 43 of 1983, amended in 1991 categorized Invasive Alien plants in three main groups.
Category 1 species are declared weeds and are totally prohibited e.g. Pampas grass.
Category 2 plants require a special permit and mainly involve commercial species e.g. Blackwood.
Category 3 are ornamentals, which should no longer be planted or sold and require intervention to curtail the spread e.g. Cotoneaster.
The spread of these plants occur mostly just because they are present. Birds and monkeys are attracted to their fruit and seeds which are carried into riverines and open grasslands. There the seeds easily germinate and give rise to new plants that infest these pristine areas. Just having these plants in our gardens make us contribute to the spread of these plants. Not even to imagine that someone would be as thoughtless as to dump their garden waste containing propagating parts of Invasive Alien Plants.
Having Invasive Alien plants in our gardens not only threatens the existence of our Conservation Project, but also make us guilty of disobeying the law. As people who have already taken the step to support such a project where we recognize the value of grasslands to ourselves and future generations, the question that comes to mind is: what on earth can we do to help?
There is a well known saying: “think globally but act locally”. The very place where we can begin is our own gardens. A simple way is to do an Invasive Alien Garden Audit. It sounds like a daunting task but lets put it this way: it simply means to identify Invasive Alien Plants in your garden. Having identified these plants decide on the following:
What can be done immediately (i.e. which plants can be removed immediately)
What can be done over the long term (i.e. which plants need first a suitable indigenous replacement before removed)
What will be difficult to change
Identification is made easier through our colour booklet called “PLANT ALERT”. It contains pictures with names of the Invasive Alien Plants from our area, which pose the greatest threat. This will be made available free of charge to all households in the village. If you still battle you can feel free to contact HEMAG who will gladly assist you in this regard.
Removing Invasive Alien Plants can be done physically by chopping them out. All seeds must be burned and other parts can be composted. A careful application of a biologically friendly herbicide can be applied to prevent the recurrence of the plants. The Haenertsburg grasslands project has also contracted Trish and Robin Baragwanath to remove the 11 most threatening Invader Plants from the Common. This contractor may be contacted and contracted to remove the Invasive Alien plants from your garden.
Removing Invasive Alien plants from your garden is an action that symbolizes your commitment to the project, other than being a passive observer. As a community we have made a decision to embark on this project, and as a community we are challenged to commit in action to it now. This is certainly a contribution each individual can make to ensure the sustainability of grasslands as a gift to future generations. In addition it may produce wonderful rewards for us as a community, for example we can enroll for the Mail and Guardian Green Awards.