Aliens in South Africa – Learning About IAPs. 

Aug 25, 2022 | Environmental Education, Invasion Biology (IAPs), Scholars

Author: Boudine Kruger

What do you think of when you hear the term “alien”? The first thing on your mind would probably be little green men with big heads. Now, while the aliens we will be learning about today are certainly green, they are nothing like the aliens you’ve seen in the movies. 

Invasive Alien plants (or IAPS for short) are plants that have spread out of their home countries or cities and invaded the homes of other plants. Just like an actual alien invasion, this can lead to disaster! 

What Happens During A Plant Invasion? 

Once an Alien Plant has invaded another plant species’s home (also known as the habitat), it will quickly spread and become more. These alien plants are often stronger than the other species and grow much faster. The plant species that naturally grow and belong in a certain place are called “indigenous” species.  

With so many alien plants invading, the indigenous plants will have difficulty getting enough water and space to grow. There are also nutrients in the ground that act as food for plants, and when aliens invade, they tend to use up all the necessary nutrients that other plants used to share. 

Since plants can’t move as humans do, they can’t go out in search of more food, which means that the indigenous plants will become less and less as the alien plants become more and more. This is bad news for humans as we need our indigenous plants to survive. 

Plants have many important jobs in their habitat. They are responsible for creating oxygen and food for nearby humans. Their strong roots also grow down deep into the ground, keeping the soil in place and making sure that the rain doesn’t wash it away. 

When alien plants take over, they might get rid of our friendly indigenous plants, causing them to disappear entirely while using all the nutrients. This means that eventually, no plants will be able to grow there, the water and nutrients will be gone, and our soil might wash away. 

Why Do Alien Plants Invade? 

Most often, alien plants don’t invade by choice. Plant invasions also don’t happen by UFO! These invasions are most often caused by humans. Plants are brought from other countries, either on purpose or by accident.  

Some people will bring plants from their home countries to plant for food, wood or animal feed, not knowing that these plants can hurt the other indigenous plants around them. Other people might accidentally bring along plants or seeds from trips or holidays; these sneaky passengers will then end up growing and spreading. 

But this doesn’t mean that invasive alien plants are evil, simply that they are lost. Since these plants have been brought here without any choice, they can’t just pack their bags and fly home once they have been planted. This is why our plants need us to stop their invasion for them! 

Stopping The Invasion. 

As humans who want to help protect our plants and their habitat, we can do a few things to help eliminate the alien plant invaders!  

First, we should learn what the most dangerous invasive alien plants look like to stop them from spreading. There are several different invasive plant species in South Africa, the most prominent are Hakea, Wattles  and  some Pine species. 

Next, we should be careful not to bring unwanted species home with us from trips or holidays. Even when travelling through South Africa, make sure that you only bring plants into your hometown’s habitat that won’t hurt the other plants around them. 

Lastly, we should help spread the word about alien plant invasion and help teach others about the world around us. When we have many people helping, we can help stop the invasion to create a healthier, happier environment around us. 

Learn more about about Invasive Aliens in South Africa on our Blog

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