Tag Archives: garden escapes

Plant Collector: Fuchsia boliviana

Rewarding but a weed here - Fuchsia boliviana

Rewarding but a weed here – Fuchsia boliviana

“You can’t write that up,” Mark protested when he saw me photographing this plant. “It’s a weed.” This may be the first Plant Uncollector. We have had the plant for several years but it has never made it out of the nursery, being left to its own devices in the somewhat wild area of plants waiting to be put in the garden but not urgent. There it has seeded down freely and it won’t be going out to the garden because we can see it has serious weed potential. This is a shame because it flowers pretty much all the time and the hanging clusters are showy, while the foliage is velvety to touch. Our neglected parent plant is about 3m high and a somewhat rangy shrub but it can get bigger.

This is a variable species. There are red and pink, even and pure white forms. It is South American – not just Bolivia but also southern Peru and northern Argentina so presumably parts of Chile too. It is highly prized internationally but it will be somewhat frost tender which may curb its escaping tendencies in colder climates. We have enough imported weeds in this country. Just because it is attractive and has rewarding blooming habits is not a good enough reason to knowingly unleash another weed. This plant, along with its multitude of seedlings, is destined for the mulcher and compost. The seeds are spread by birds and because the plant can establish in heavy shade, it has a wide habitat. It is on the National Pest Plant Accord so can’t be sold legally but we arrived at the conclusion of its weed pest potential all of our own accord. If there is ever a sterile version of this plant released, we would welcome it but until then, no.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

Garden lore

“What is a weed? I have heard it said that there are sixty definitions. For me, a weed is a plant out of place.”

Donald Culross Peattie, (1896 -1964).

Weed plants
After my recent faux pas with Lilium formasanum, I was contacted by Carolyn Lewis, the national coordinator of Weedbusters, an organisation with support from many interested parties, dedicated to raising awareness of the problem weeds in this country. Too many of these are garden escapes and gardeners need to take some responsibility for unleashing vegetable time bombs. The website http://www.weedbusters.org.nz gives extensive information on individual weeds including how to eradicate each species in your area and useful suggestions of alternative plants to use instead.

Weedbusters are not covering the plants included in the National Pest Plant Accord (which are the banned ones) although there is a link through to the Ministry for Primary Industries section on these agreed pests. Some of the inclusions surprise me (Bartelttina sordida for one), others don’t. The arum lily, aristeas and agapanthus are widely recognised as problematic. I would have liked to have seen more information on where these plants are problems (national, regional or specific to just one area) because one region’s weed can be another region’s valued garden plant.

Without becoming too paranoid, take notice of those that seed down too freely or spread rampantly in your domain. If they are popping up all round the place, threatening to invade well beyond their allotted space and choking out other plants, or are extremely difficult to eradicate then you are probably looking at plants with significant weed potential for your conditions. While purists may advocate total eradication, in some cases we choose to manage such plants. We don’t want to be without our campanulata cherries that feed the tuis but we take responsibility for the seedlings and are vigilant weeders. The vegetable garden is not exempt either. We rated strawberry spinach as downright dangerous and went for eradication.

We don’t need more weeds in this country.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.