Rare little aloe found amid aliens in valley

Fynbos grass aloe

Alien vegetation clearing work in the Baakens Valley below Sunridge has revealed a rare gem – a fynbos grass aloe.

Nelson Mandela University botanist Dr Adriaan Grobler, who accompanied the clearing team on Saturday, spotted the slender little aloe sandwiched between spiky clumps of sisal, an alien invasive plant originally from Mexico.

The Aloe micracantha is restricted to a narrow strip between Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth and up to Uniondale.

“There are a couple of grass aloes but this is the only one found in fynbos areas. It’s listed as near threatened but a lot of wild populations have been destroyed and it’s on the brink of becoming endangered,” Grobler said.

According to the South African National Biodiversity Institute, the species is threatened by agriculture between Humansdorp and Port Elizabeth.

Around the city, it is under siege from urban expansion and alien vegetation.

Grobler recorded several other indigenous species including ericas and proteas below Abelia Street.

Besides the sisal, the other aliens included black and long-leaf wattle, Port Jackson and bluegums – all Australian natives, he said.

Grobler, a member of the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers, said the alien clearing initiative headed by Sunridge Park resident Vince Jearey, however small, was important.

“It won’t by itself save the Baakens Valley. To do that, government funding will be needed and a comprehensive action plan.

“But this raises awareness and shows people what even a little bit of effort can achieve.”

After Grobler had marked the alien species with a spray-paint canister, Jearey and his wife, Mariette, together with Steff Schenk, all part of the Baakens Valley Preservation Trust, and assistant Elvis Makepe were able to move in.

The exotics were either dug out, ringbarked or lopped off and painted with herbicide, Jearey said.

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