New NEMBA regulations published 19th July, 2013

The government has published a set of regulations which affect gardeners, pet enthusiasts and property owner across the country. The regulations are related to the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) and contain lists of invasive species which require a range of control measures including removal, permits and management plans if found on your property.

The new National List of Invasive Species includes 14 fish, 9 reptiles, 9 birds, 15 mammals and 106 plants (13 of which appear in existing legislation).  Listed species are deemed either Category 1a or 1b.

* Category 1a:  Invasive species that require compulsory control.

* Category 1b: Invasive species that require control by means of an invasive species management programme.

In all cases, the law requires property owners to check if any of these species are on your property. If they are present, you need to control them from jumping the garden fence (Category 1a) or submit a invasive species management control programme explaining why you should be granted a permit to keep them on your property (Category 1b).  If there is no reason why they should be on your property, a permit can be denied and the law requires you to remove and destroy the species on your property.

“The good news is that for the first time there are national regulations concerning alien and invasive invertebrates, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and plants”, says scientist, Lesley Henderson.

Invasive plants

The new NEMBA regulations list 106 plant species which have been declared as invaders in South Africa, requiring compulsory control or management. Thirteen of these plant species already appear in the list of 198 invasive plants listed in the 2001 declared invader weeds legislation known as CARA (Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, 2001).

Among the 93 newly listed invaders are a number of plants commonly found in local gardens, including three beautiful water-loving reed-like plants, three really common groundcovers, three pretty shrubs and three climbers with exotic flowers.

NEMBA Iris pseudacorus* Bog and water plants:  The beautiful yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus), spectacular yellow water lily (Nymphaea mexicana) and the architectural snake grass (Equisetum hyemale) have been declared as invasive dangers to South Africa.

A highly artistic water plant used annually in at least a dozen exhibition gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show in London, snake grass has tuberous runners that are more invasive than bamboo. The tuberous runners are almost to remove once they are in your garden as plants can grow from tiny pieces that break off in the soil.

Acknowledging the invasive danger that snake grass posed for South Africa as long ago as 1995, the South African Nursery Association self-regulated the plant by encouraging all its members not to buy or sell it. Self-regulation was less successful in the cut-flower industry where the reed was sold at Johannesburg’s Multiflora cut flower market until very recently.

* Groundcovers:  Three very common groundcovers found in hundreds of suburban gardens across South Africa are now listed. Periwinkle (Vinca major, V. minor),NEMBA Vinca_major_ wild strawberry (Duchesnea indica) and a hugely successful water wise groundcover listed in the legislation by the politically insensitive common name of wandering Jew (Tradescantia fluinensis, T. zebrina) have acquired an outlaw status (Category 1b) that will surprise many gardeners. Without a management control plan and permit, gardens will need to remove and destroy these groundcovers.

* Flowering shrubs:  Sold in garden centres during the last century on account of their spectacular flowers, the exotic flowering canary-bird bush (Crotolaria agatiflora), bird-of-paradise flower (Caesalpinia gilliesii) and elderberry (Sambucus canadensis, S. nigra) are now declared Category 1b invaders.

* Climbers:  Found in warmer gardens, the pretty coral creeper (Antigonon leptopus), Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia elegans) and exotic bananadilla (Passiflora tripartita var. mollissima) are now Category 1b.  Remove them from your garden or start applying for a permit to keep it in your garden.

mallard_glam* Invasive fauna:   For gardeners that keep ducks and terrapins as pets, it is important to note that mallard ducks (Anas platyrthnchos), house crows (Corvus splendens), Indian myna birds (Acridotheres tristis) and even red–eared slider terrapins (Trachemys spp.) require compulsory control, as well as management plans and permits to keep.

Among the declared invader mammals are the Himalayan tahr, feral pigs and the black-faced impala.  Rainbow trout is probably the best known of the invasive alien fish listed in the new legislation and trout farmers now require management plan and permits.  Small and large mouth bass as well as the invasive alien Nile tilapia are also listed.

Finally, if you are an aquarium fish hobbyist, it’s important to note that the blue gill sunfish is a now a Category 1b invasive alien species.

Kay-Montgomery 1

~ Kay Montgomery  (Environmental Programmes, Nurseries Partnership)