A rapid assessment of the invasive status of Eucalyptus species in two South African provinces

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South African Journal of Science

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University of Cape Town

Gum trees, or eucalypts (Eucalyptus species), have been targeted for invasive alien plant clearing programmes in many parts of South Africa. This has caused some dissatisfaction where the species concerned also have useful characteristics, and stakeholders contend that some of these useful species are not invasive. A rapid assessment of the invasive status of Eucalyptus species at 82 sites in South Africa (54 in the Western Cape and 28 in Mpumalanga) indicated that only Red River gum (E. camaldulensis) and flooded gum (E. grandis) are clearly invasive. Surveys were not undertaken in parts of the Western Cape known to be invaded by spider gum (E. lehmannii); the invasive status of this species is well known and is not contested. Red River gum has transformed long stretches of rivers and its importance as a major weed has been underestimated in previous reviews of alien plant invasions in South Africa. Most other species were naturalized. We recommend that projects aimed at clearing eucalypts should focus on riparian areas and nature reserves (where all eucalypts have deleterious effects), but that clearing projects outside these areas should only target species known to be invasive until such time as the invasive status of the other eucalypts (notably sugar gum, E. cladocalyx, and karri, E. diversicolor) can be ascertained with a greater degree of confidence.