16 January, 2014

Paterson’s Curse our invasive alien

- gardening for biodiversity in Porterville, near Cape Town in South Africa

Pretty flower, no? NOT!!!

It starts as a baby, a flat rosette of leaves. Then as a toddler it sends up a brave spike with a spire of flowers, opening one by one. My favourite flower colour, that shimmering between blue and pink. Think Morning Glory or our Lobostemon. Recognise the borage colour scheme?

With macro photography it is a glorious flower. Then... It becomes a teenage thug, growing into a shrubby hip or even shoulder height MONSTER. It will smother everything in its path. At the right time of year, when your eye is attuned to THAT colour, you can see fallow fields that are an unbroken blue/pink SEA. It produces a truly terrifying amount of seed, and makes triffids into common or garden pussycats.

Paterson's Curse in August 2009

When you panic, and seek and destroy the plants, as soon as you see the pretty flowers – you discover that it fights nasty! See the tiny little hairs, waiting, to attack! Your arms will be crisscrossed with oozing bloody cuts, which take many days to heal. This is war. If you have this plant in your garden – fight!

Paterson’s Curse is its name. Echium plantagineum in the borage family. Purple Viper's Bugloss. It comes from the Mediterranean, and so is very happy in our climate, feels at home! Having waited through the summer (aestivation, ice cubes on the veranda), when the winter rain comes, they germinate. Up to 30,000 seeds per square metre, we can wait, for TEN YEARS!

Who is Pat(t)erson? ‘Eliza Grace Patterson was born in Ireland. Married into Australia, and is immortalised for bringing “Paterson’s Curse” to beautify her garden. Since the 1880s it has infested Australian pastures’ (According to the CSIRO it is nutritious, but poisonous. Can lead to death) ‘Its spread has been greatly aided by human-induced habitat degradation, particularly the removal of perennial grasses through overgrazing by sheep and cattle. Paterson's Curse is rarely able to establish itself in habitats where the native vegetation is healthy and undisturbed’ – facts from CSIRO AU and Wikipedia

And the moral of this story is – Remember Eliza Grace, before you bring exotic plants into your garden.

Don't bring in invasive aliens.

This post I've revived as the one plant in my garden which is not one of the Ungardener’s free spirited plants but our only outright and undeniable weed!

Pictures by Diana Studer

(If you mouse over brown text,
it turns shriek pink. Those are my links.
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21 comments:

  1. Nutritious yet poisonous - sounds contradictory. You flourish a few days then die? Viper's Bugloss round here is admired as a wild plant - one that I admire so much I tried to introduce it into my garden. I failed - but, in the process, found how horrid those tiny stick-in-your-hand hairs can be. You are right - introduce a beautiful plant from somewhere else and without its natural difficulties it may take over. On the other hand, masses of the plants we grow in England have been imported and adapted - even our jolly old roses!

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    1. the stock CAN eat it in a drought, but shouldn't?
      There are foreign beauties in my garden - but not invasives that fight nasty. The agave speared me once too often.

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  2. I love that flower color but I'm pleased to say I've never seen the plant. I hope I never do! It sounds wicked!

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  3. Poor woman. To be immortalized for importing a poisonous invasive weed.

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    Replies
    1. but she does get her moment of fame!

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    2. We have this plant too. Beautiful and difficult at the same time. And there is more than one name
      https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8445708994273990101#editor/target=post;postID=5054296313778331727;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=35;src=postname

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    3. unhappy link.
      http://thefieldofgold.blogspot.com/2010/02/vipers-bugloss-pardon.html
      Salvation Jane?

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  4. There is a weed/wildflower that blooms white here in the spring, it's taking over the fields and not in a good way...seems every climate has it's problems.

    Jen

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  5. Viper's Bugloss is native here in Italy and causes none of the problems you mention. Just proving your point about careless gardeners bringing plants into their gardens without thought. But you can't just blame gardeners who only buy what is for sale. But good to remember when you find a seemingly lovely plant (perhaps when on holiday) and think it would be a nice reminder of your trip.

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  6. Ugh! What a thug! One of our nastiest 'fighting' invasives is the multiflora rose which I have mentioned on my blog several times. I am striving for 'quality of content' on my blog, but the writing and rewriting takes more time than I am prepared to take, so my posts are probably not as 'strong' as they should be. P. x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. different strokes, NO pressure!
      I wasn't expecting the learning curve, and it's changing curve, when I began blogging.

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  7. That's a shame, as it is pretty, after a fashion. But we once had a blue borage that went wild and overgrew everything, so I understand. Lucky Eliza Patterson (in a way), having a plant named after her!
    All the best :)

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  8. Yikes! When I first saw the bloom on your blog I thought it was a beautiful Geranium. Then I read the post and found out what a horrible invader it can be. With globalization it appears we have benefits and also invading thugs. We have many here, too, that people spend hours, days, and weeks to eradicate.

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  9. What a sad thing to be remembered for! I am glad that deceptively pretty monster does not live here. We have enough carelessly introduced invasives without it!

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  10. The US has tons of invasive plants that have changed our ecosystems. Some of them seem really beautiful until you see the ugly damage they've done. I can understand why Eliza wanted to bring that flower with her. But she must have worn gloves to have endured all those tiny hairs.

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  11. Ooh, first time for me to hear of such a plant... the mini-mini thorns must be quite nasty, I imagine...

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  12. Hi Diana,
    It's been a while since my last visit. I hope you are keeping well. You mentioned a vase that leaks, in your comment on my blog, - that is too bad - is it big enough to put a smaller glass container inside? Then you can still enjoy its beauty.
    Have a good day!
    Ingrid

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ingrid - I do as you said in your post - use a plate to catch the drips, and gain an extra layer of colour and texture.

      Delete
  13. Thanks for the repost - I'd always wondered how it got its name.

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  14. So many of those invasive aliens are stunningly beautiful; the color of this flower is breathtaking. In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan argues that plants compensate for their lack of locomotion by making themselves desirable to humans and getting humans to move them from place to place. -Jean

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    Replies
    1. or the grass seeds which burrow into the hem of my jeans or thru my socks, and hitch a ride that way.

      Delete

Photographs and Copyright

Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
My Canon PowerShot A490

If I use your images or information, it will be clearly acknowledged with either a link to the website, or details of the book. If you use my images or words, I expect you to acknowledge them in turn.


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