What’s your opinion of Paterson’s Curse?

Focus Patersons Curse 1 Duncan Pic-Megan McGrath

Have you seen fields of lilac flowers in your neighbourhood? An online survey is asking for your opinion of Paterson’s Curse.

Bees love it. Horses and cattle get sick if they eat it. Commonly referred to as Paterson’s or Patterson’s curse (Echium plantagineum), this lilac-flowering invasive weed is flourishing across the Western Cape.

Paterson’s Curse comes from the Mediterranean region of Europe and is a well-publicised agricultural weed in Australia. It is thought to have arrived in Cape Town during a pit-stop of a vessel from the UK destined for Australia during the late 1700s. These vessels often carried livestock and feed which may have been contaminated with Paterson’s curse seeds.

This month, fields and pavements across Cape Town are filled with the lilac-flowering Paterson’s Curse.

Patricia Duncan is undertaking a PhD research project on Paterson’s Curse. She needs to know what you think about his plant. Help her out and fill in the 15-minute online survey questionnaire at  https://tinyurl.com/patersonscurse

After matriculating at Camps Bay High School, Patricia did a BSc and Master’s degree in Geomatics at the University of Cape Town. As a Geomatics professional, she spent a decade with the National Geo-Spatial Information Directorate, before joining Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) as a lecturer.

Patricia now lectures Geomatics courses on subjects such as geographical information systems, remote sensing and surveying.

Patricia’s PhD explores remote sensing techniques for detecting Paterson’s Curse from satellites and drones. Her online survey is part of the thesis and aims to evaluate:

* The potential socio-economic impact of the weed

* The amount of agricultural land lost

* Potential benefits to the beekeeping industry

The cost – benefit analysis for this invasive weed may also be used in determining the feasibility of control programmes.

The questionnaire survey will take 15 minutes to complete. Submit multiple questionnaires if you represent multiple interests such as farming, beekeeping or tourism.

“There are beekeepers that believe the flowers of this plant are very important for bees and the honey industry”, says Duncan.  “However, it also replaces valuable veld grass, leaving horses and cattle grazing in fields of toxic plants”, she adds.

“Seeds remain viable for several years and seed banks of up to 30,000 seeds per square metre have been recorded. While beautiful, the drought-tolerant weed is toxic to grazing livestock, causes skin irritation and allergies, contributes to soil erosion, reduces pasture productivity, outcompetes native vegetation and is difficult to control. So, it is important that we track its spread”, says Duncan, who is harnessing Earth observation data to monitor the weed and develop models to predict its potential spread.

As a declared weed, Paterson’s Curse is listed as a Category 1b invasive plant on the National List of Invasive Species. This means that property owners and organs of state have a duty of care to control and remove it from their land.

The Paterson’s Curse Project is a collaborative effort between the Agricultural Research Council (ARC), the Centre for Invasion Biology (CIB), and the Department of Conservation Ecology & Entomology, Stellenbosch University. Contact Patricia Duncan pduncan@sun.ac.za

Link to questionnaire:


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