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Alien Plants

Travelling to different parts of the globe can be an exhilarating experience, so much that when our travels near an end we wish we could take every beautiful thing we have seen back home with us. People with an affinity to plants and vegetation may encounter a new species of plant they reckon would look good in their farm or garden and they obtain seeds of such plant not knowing that they may have sentenced their environment to a fierce attack. The invasion of an alien plant.

Alien plants are plants that have found a way into an environment in which they did not originally exist, this may happen by importation as in the above scenario, or seedlings may be carried by air or migrating animals. Alien plants can be particularly disastrous to the environment in which they take root. In their natural habitat, these plants are regulated by other plant species and other natural factors. However in a new environment they may flourish in epic proportions, and thus completely killing out native plant species.

For instance, the South American native water hyacinth has become a major environmental problem in South Africa. The University of Witwatersrand reports that this is the worst water weed in South Africa, it blocks waterways, displaces indigenous flora and fauna by habitat modification, and high rates of evapotranspiration results in the loss of water.

Most countries usually have laws to regulate the deliberate importation of foreign plants into their jurisdictions. One would do well to familiarise him/herself with such laws, the motivation being to avoid the potential threat that alien species of plants may bring about. It would also help if governments enforced strict controls at territorial border points, placing visible signs instructing people to declare all plants and/or seeds they may have with them. Governments would also do well to train farmers and environmental officers on the effective control of alien species at different levels of invasion.

The earth brings forth many beautiful plant species, as human beings we owe it to the environment to respect the natural arrangement and location of different species. Moving plant species willy-nilly may prove to do far more harm than good. The laws regulating plant movement must thus be adhered to.

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