Invader Species- The Balloon Vine

The Cape Town Invader Species Unit leaflet on Balloon Vines- an invader speciesMy neighbours will attest to the fact that I am not a great gardener- reluctant at best. Sometimes though I am compelled to do something about the jungle that is my garden. Luckily at the moment the Cape Point weather provides a great excuse for not doing anything in the garden, but a fine day meant I had to actually go out there and make an effort.

The other problem I have with the garden is that I don’t always know what I am looking at plant-wise. So it was no surprise that there was a plant growing in a bed that I initially thought was a ‘cape gooseberry’. The plant had ‘pouchy’ looking seed pods on it, rather frail and delicate, though they were still very green and small, so I wasn’t surprised to see no front in them. Luckily the fruit of a ‘cape gooseberry’ (also called a physalis) is entirely unappealing to me- I used to work on a cruise ship where every dessert dish seemed to have one as a garnish, and at times it would be more appetizing to eat the plate. So since the we hadn’t planted it I pulled it out.

I say ‘lucky’ because a few days later my daughter brought me a leaflet from the library, which I must admit I only partially looked at. On the front was a big picture of the ‘fruits’ we had removed from the garden. It was only today, in a moment of extreme tedium that I picked up the leaflet and looked at the leaflet properly. The plant was not a cape gooseberry, but a balloon vine, and is an extreme invader species. So you see, it was lucky that I did pull it out, and even luckier that my daughter had kept the seeds because she thought they were something to do with fairies. This meant that I could burn the seeds so that they cannot end up growing somewhere.

The floral kingdom of the Western Cape is very unique and very fragile. There are a number of species of plant and animal that are quite common in the area that are amazingly harmful and destructive. They have the potential to completely destroy all that makes the Cape Point Peninsula so beautiful and diverse.

Which is where the good people of the Cape Town Invasive Species Unit comes in. They are trying to draw up a picture of invasive species, find them and get rid of them. And they need the help of everyone who lives in the Cape Point Peninsula so that they preserve our unique habitats.

For starters they have an amazing website and identify the types of invasive species and the category that they fall into (the balloon vine is a category 1 invader meaning that it should be removed and destroyed immediately). You can register on the website and then put sitings of invader species into their database, or you can email the unit directly with information. Even if you have already dealt with the invader you should still let the unit know where you saw them and the measures you took to eradicate them. If you find something that you cannot deal with then you can contact the unit for help and advice (they will come and do the removal for you if it is something that you cannot handle, but please bear in mind that they have limited resources, so it would be a big help if you don’t call out a team to pull out a weed for you.)

The web site is www.capetowninvasives.org.za and you can email edrr@capetown.gov.za.

Lets get behind these amazing initiatives and all do our bit in keeping the Cape Point Floral unique, diverse, indigenous and healthy.

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