Bugweed (Solanum Mauritianum)

Bugweed or Solanum Mauritianum is a shrub or small tree  which tends to invade bushland areas.  It is not an attractive tree – the leaves are dull and hairy and the purple flowers relatively small.

The tree grows up to 4m high.  The leaves are covered with whitish-felty hairs. The leaves emit a strong smell when bruised.

Purple flowers occur in compact, terminal clusters on densely felty stalks up to 10cm long all year round. Spherical berries which start off green and turn yellow, and unripe, the berries are poisonous.

Hairy leaves and stems are a respiratory tract and skin irritant.

In terms of the Alien and Invasive Species Regulations (AIS), National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (Act No 10 of 2004), bugweed has been declared a category 1b species, which necessitates its control, or removal and destruction if possible. Small plants can be uprooted manually, and large plants may be ringbarked at ground level, or cut down close to the ground and the stumps treated with recommended herbicides. The seeds of inaccessible plants will, however, always cause re-invasion of cleared areas, and biocontrol is therefore deemed the most sustainable control option.

References: Agricultural Research Council