Invasive plants have a negative impact on South Africa’s local plant life, animal life and can be detrimental to the environment.

Whether you’ve planted them or they just happen to be growing on your property, did you know it is the legal obligation of every citizen to remove and destroy Category 1 alien invasive plants? The damage done to the environment by these seemingly harmless plants is so bad that growing them is illegal!

Why invasive plants are bad

Not all alien plants are dangerous, but invasive plants pose a threat a threat not only to your other plants but the environment in general.

Invasive plants (as the name suggests) invade the space they’re in, making it difficult for other plants to grow. These plants often use much more water and soil nutrients than our indigenous South African plants. But the damage done by invasive plants doesn’t stop there, it also affects the animals and insects that are dependent on indigenous plants for food and shelter.

Related: 15 tips for a waterwise garden

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5 Common invasive plants that may be in your garden

Although it is illegal to plant, sell or grow invasive plants, even in your own garden, many people still have these plants in their homes without even knowing it. Removing and destroying invasive plants in favour of local plants will improve the well-being of your garden and the environment.

Bug weed (Solanum mauritianum)

Don’t be fooled by its delicate purple flowers. Bug weed is a small tree from South America that can grow up to two metres in just a few months. The plant is spread by birds that eat the berries of the tree, transporting the seeds. Seeds that fall on the ground also do not need much encouragement to grow, making it one of the worst alien plants in South Africa.

invasive plants, bug weed tree

Queen of the night (Cereus jamacaru)

A flowering cactus is beautiful and the queen of the night is arguably the most beautiful of them all with white flowers rarely seen in bloom.

The queen of the night – also known as the apple cactus – is very competitive and with its far-reaching, long and spiny roots it is able to quickly grow into dense bushes suffocating other plants and making it difficult for larger animals to move in the area. Because of its spikes, it is also difficult to remove and can cause injury.

Image: Sabrina Felicia

Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) and fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum)

Pampas grass and fountain grass are often used to cover large areas of poor soil, and while it is very effective in that instance, their seeds can easily be spread by birds and animals to places where the quick-growing grass is taxing on the soil and takes up so much water and space that it does not allow other plants to grow.

pampas grass, invasive plants

Cats claw creeper (Dolichandra unguis-cati)

This evergreen creeper with seasonal bright yellow flowers is largely considered a weed although it is sometimes used decoratively. The seeds spread naturally, carried by the wind, moving water and animals. With its fast and vast growth, the cats claw creeper can grow over most plants and literally choke them out.

Invasive alien plants South Africa Cats claw creeper Macfadyena_unguis-cati
Image: Forest and Kim Starr

Kahili ginger lily (Hedychium gardnerianum)

The Kahili ginger lily is used as a decorative plant and the fragrant flowers are quite beautiful, but it grows easily and quickly and can take over land and overcrowd plants without any help.


Invasive alien plants South Africa Kahili ginger lily Hedychium_gardnerianum
Image: Forest & Kim Starr


Instead of these planting these invasive alien plants, why not plant some spekboom? An amazing South African plant that actually helps fight climate change!

For a full list of invasive alien plants that have no place in anyone’s garden, visit