BY VANESSA GONYE
STAKEHOLDERS have called on responsible authorities to formulate legislation and fund mechanisms to support the research and eradication of invasive plant species, vernonanthura polyanthes (sprengel) vega and dematteis (bee bush), posing a danger to edible plants, vegetation and livestock in the Eastern Highlands.
Vernonathura polyanthes is a shrub indigenous to Bolivia and Brazil.
Research indicates that it was introduced as a nectar plant for bees, possibly in the early 1990s in areas around Sussundenga, Mozambique, and has spread to the eastern parts of the country through wind action.
The bee bush is an erect shrub of up to three metres tall with striate and tomentose stems.
Although the plant has established and naturalised itself in Chipinge and Chimanimani, it has also shown characteristics of being invasive.
Speaking at a stakeholder consultative meeting in Harare yesterday, Environmental Management Agency spokesperson Liberty Mugadza said there was need to put in place measures to deal with the invasive plant.
“Our call is for it to be given national attention for management, including legislation and funding mechanisms to support awareness raising research and eradication,” he said.
The plant is said to be affecting indigenous plant populations depriving communities of the benefits they have been getting from flora, including medicines and food.
“There is evidence that it has more potential of spreading into the entire country through wind action. It is a serious weed also affecting livelihoods in the Eastern Highlands where we have our tea plantations, fruit orchards, timber plantations and tourism,” he said.
“The plant has been spreading fast since 2000 when it was first identified and is now affecting Chipinge, Chimanimani, Mutare and Mutasa districts.”
Forestry Commission acting deputy general manager (research and training) Joyce Gombe said the plant was affecting forestry business.
“It is really a problem for us interested in forestry and bio-diversity. It has proven to be a serious challenge in silvicultural operations in the plantations and that has increased our costs and we really look forward to a solution to the problem,” she said.