You haven’t heard from me for far too long. Rex said I should tell you about my latest humiliation. Jerome and I carefully planted a baby Umzimbeet (Milletia grandis) tree into our garden some three or so years ago. We have nurtured and cared for it plus have grown new trees from the seeds. Yesterday afternoon we were very lucky to be visited by experts on indigenous plants, Charles and Julia Botha. They said they really thought it was an exotic and not the Umzimbeet as we had thought. Horror! Shame!! Because they are such kindly and humble people (though they are absolute experts. If you have not read, absorbed and put into practice their wonderful book now newly published called “Bring Nature Back to your Garden“, you haven’t experienced an absorbing hobby and way of life that has become a passion to us), they suggested we take a specimen to the Botanic Gardens Herbarium in St. Thomas’s Road. This we did today and they are absolutely correct – how much more correct could one be than absolutely? They don’t know where the offending tree is from but it is definitely to be removed once a strong man has been found to do the task. Dr. Singh, the curator of the herbarium told us that they really like to be visited by members of the public and are delighted to help with advice on indigenous gardening. I think we should take up this offer and so learn more from the experts.
On a related topic, an article appeared in The Mercury on 17th November by Gloria Keverne. She says that there has been too much made of removal of exotic plants plus she is worried about the use of poisons and many other points. She suggests that nature is self-regulating and that to remove exotics is unnecessary and too expensive – among other points. One really needs to read the article to get her full meaning. I replied and my letter is below (edited in the paper on 18th November). There was also a rather wishy washy editorial on the same day plus two letters thinking Keverne is correct in her thesis. Oh dear. I will write again but not say I will be published twice on the same topic. The paper usually shuts me up with the comment “this correspondence is now closed”.
Well done to Niall and Mouldy on the website. Clemence and Mouldy, we miss you in Durban.
Letter to editor:
I am sure there will be much correspondence in response to the article written by Gloria Keverne (The Mercury November 17). I was heartened to read the editorial today on the subject – although a balanced response, I think much more needs to be written by both authorities in government and in the private sector. Kaverne’s thesis sounds informed and plausible. However …
Keverne proposes that “the earth has policed its own ecosystems for billions of years, so why would it need controlling now?” The answers are obvious and do not need detailed analysis in this letter. Briefly, the population explosion, global warming and many other factors have sped up the destruction of natural habitats at an unprecedented rate and where there is deforestation, alien plants take over or there is desertification. I think that her article encourages the lazy and uninformed to sit back and let alien invaders and exotic species take over in the gardens and farms the local people occupy here in South Africa. The article suggests to me that one need only sit back and let nature do the repair work. I think much more debate needs to take place especially regarding the use of pesticides in the eradication of alien species.
I would encourage readers to become properly informed about the need to preserve and propagate indigenous plants by way of reading the excellent book recently updated and published by Charles and Julia Botha, “Bring nature back to your garden”. I followed their advice and now have an indigenous garden that has encouraged birds, butterflies and snakes and which is a haven from the busy city of Durban. It was a hard decision to remove beautiful trees such as an ornamental cassia fistula and large vigorous growing bougainvilleas but the result is better than I could ever have imagined.
Keverne is correct in stating that the use of poisons to eradicate alien plants is a problem. However, due to the large infested areas it is perhaps the only way to eradicate the many invaders there are. If one takes a drive down the south coast, one will note huge areas covered in Brazilian pepper trees (schinus terebinthifolius) and, of course, the rampant chromolaena odorata and, of course, sugar cane. We can’t get back to Eden but that is not say we shouldn’t try.