Monday, 17 August 2020

African spotted orchid Oeceoclades maculata

 African spotted orchid Oeceoclades maculata

Family:                 Orchidaceae

Subfamily:            Epidendroideae

Tribe:                    Cymbidieae

Subtribe:              Eulophiinae

Synonyms            Oeceoclades mackenii


Distribution in South Africa:        KwaZulu-Natal

Widespread across the tropics of Africa and South and Central America, and rare in southern Africa.

A globally very widespread species, however in South Africa it is very rare, known from only a few records, but not suspected to be threatened. It may also be overlooked as plants are well camouflaged among shaded forest leaf litter.

The African spotted orchid Oeceoclades maculata, also known as the monk orchid, is a terrestrial orchid species that is native to tropical Africa, the sub-tropical east coastal region of South Africa and Madagascar. Oeceoclades maculata is considered to be one of the most successful invasive orchids which has naturalized in South and Central America, the Caribbean, and Florida in North America. It was first described by the English botanist John Lindley as Angraecum maculatum in 1821 based on a specimen collected from South America. Lindley later revised his original placement and moved the species to the genus Oeceoclades in 1833.



Oeceoclades maculata grows in leaf litter amongst rocks in the shade of riverine forest and woodland. It produces a very short rhizomatous stem that is covered with secondary stems that are expanded to form below ground, rounded pseudobulbs up to 6 cm in length.  From the top of the pseudobulb flattened a single linear leaf emerge that is up to 40 cm in length.


In their natural habitat they experience summer day temperatures of 27 -32 degrees C, and night time temperatures which average around 21 degrees C, with a winter minimum night time temperatures as low as 10 degrees C and daytime temperatures around 25 degrees C.


75-80% in summer dropping as low as 50% in winter.


Oeceoclades maculata which are easy to grow require shady conditions and filtered or diffused light. Good air movement should be provided at all times.


Growing media:

A mix of equal parts well decomposed leaf-mould, small crushed stone, decayed granite or river pebbles and medium sized composted pine bark compost works well. Oeceoclades maculata should be grown in shallow well-drained containers large enough for about 2 – 3 years growth. Repotting is best done in early spring as new growth resumes and should be avoided before the winter rest.


Oeceoclades maculata should be watered heavily while actively growing, but drainage must be excellent, and conditions around the roots should never be stale or soggy. Watering needs to be reduced for 2-3 months in winter


I use a balanced water-soluble hydroponics fertiliser to which I add equal amounts of fulvic acid and humic acid at a quarter to half a gram each per litre of water, applied weekly as a drench keeping the leaves dry when the plants are actively growing.

They should be allowed to become almost dry between waterings, but they should not dry out completely. Fertilizer should be reduced when water is reduced.

 Michael Hickman on 17.08.2020 

Sunday, 3 September 2017

The Dangers of using Picloram in Conservation Areas

In 2013 I first began noticing what was very clearly herbicide damage and death being caused in particular to two species of tree being Grewia occidentalis and Trema orientalis. I took photos of the affected trees but could not establish the source of or the herbicide that had caused the damage.

Trema orientalis that has been damaged by a very small dose of the herbicide picloram and is about to die. This tree has died since the photo was taken

More and more I began noticing trees that had been affected or had been killed by what was very clearly as the result of herbicide poisoning but again I could not establish what herbicide had caused the death of the trees and when the spraying had occurred, in some areas the last spraying had occurred a few years previously.

About a year after first observing the herbicide damage to trees and other plants I accidentally discovered the culprit herbicide.

I had removed a narrow band of bark down to the cambium on three trees on my property and carefully applied a very narrow band of Kaput Gel containing Triclopyr and Picloram in a band of about 50 mm on the bottom half of the area where the bark had been removed. Within a few days I noticed that two trees growing within a meters of one of the trees started to show signs of herbicide poisoning and within two weeks one of the small trees Hippobromus pauciflorus was completely dead, the second small tree affected was Obetia tenax which very nearly died but eventually after more than two years recovered. For up to three meters along the line of the main roots all dicotyledonous ground cover plants were affected. A wild grape Rhoicissus tomentosa growing about six meters from one of the other trees was also very badly affected clearly from herbicide leached from the tree that had been treated with Kaput gel, eventually over ninety percent of the very large vine died what is left at the time of writing being August 2017 has not completely recovered.

Obetia tenax two years after having been poisoned by picloram which leached from the roots of a tree that was ring barked and was treated with a herbicide gel some distance away

Once that I had noticed how very small doses of picloram had affected other plants growing nearby I investigated what herbicides had been sprayed in the areas where so much herbicide damage had occurred and discovered Plenum containing Picloram has been sprayed to control weeds in adjoining grassland. In most areas where Plenum containing Picloram had been sprayed 100% of Trema orientalis trees had died.

Trema orientalis that has been killed by a very small amount of the herbicide picloram,note that the two trees growing beneath it have not been affected

Since then I have kept a very close eye on where ever I have seen contractors spraying or applying herbicides. Time and again I have found that Herbicides containing Picloram have caused excessive amounts of damage and death to a number of species.

I have observed that the following trees as extremely sensitive to very low doses of picloram

Barringtonia racemosa
Brachyleana discolor
Celtis africanus
Dombeya cymosum
Ficus lutea
Grewia occidentalis
Hippobromus pauciflorus commonly known as false horsewood
Obetia tenax
Scadoxus puniceus
Trema orientalis
Wild grape Rhoicissus tomentosa

Croton sylvaticus dying after picloram  that had been sprayed a year or two before  was washed down to the root zone following heavy rains 

 Research on the internet confirmed what I had recorded but also brought to light some alarming facts as to the danger of using Picloram in sensitive natural areas or near to them.

As a result of my own observations as well as what information I have obtained from the internet and a number of experts that  I have discussed the danger of applying Picloram with I will certainly never spray with any Herbicide containing Picloram in any natural area neither would I recommend any one else to do so.

I would go as far as to say do not under any circumstances ever spray with any herbicide containing Picloram in environmentally sensitive areas for instance in conservation areas or any other area when no damage to indigenous vegetation may occur. Also do not use herbicide gels containing Picloram and if there is absolutely no alternative then do so with extreme caution and only on plants that cannot be controlled with other herbicides because as reported above picloram leaches from the roots from the roots of plants that have been treated with it killing or damaging desirable plants growing nearby.

Damage has been caused to a Barringtonia racemosa a protected tree in South Africa at the uMdloti river lagoon by an NGO doing alien plant removal
Barringtonia racemosa a protected tree has been killed by the uninformed use of picloram at the uMdloti river lagoon by an NGO doing alien plant eradication

There is no need at all to use Picloram in natural areas because there are herbicides that are just as effective and are far safer to use so please do not use this nasty herbicide in these areas.

The following information in regards to picloram has been published on the internet.

Picloram is a systemic herbicide that belongs to the pyridine family of compounds, used for general woody plant control. It also controls a wide range of broad- leaved weeds excepting mustards (crucifers). Most grasses are resistant to picloram so it is used in grassland management programs.

Picloram can be sprayed onto foliage, injected into plants, applied to cut surfaces, or placed at the base of the plant where it will leach to the roots. Once absorbed by the foliage, stem, or roots, picloram is transported throughout the plant.

Picloram kills susceptible plants by mimicking the plant growth hormone auxin (indole acetic acid), and when administered at effective doses, causes uncontrolled and disorganized plant growth that leads to plant death.

Picloram is the most persistent member of its family of herbicides which does not bind strongly with soil particles and is not degraded rapidly in the environment, allowing it to be highly mobile and persistent. The half-life of picloram in soils can range from one month to several years.

As a result Picloram can move off-site through surface or subsurface runoff and has been found in the groundwater. Picloram may also “leak” out of the roots of treated plants, and be taken up by nearby, desirable species.

Concentrations in runoff reported by researchers are often adequate to prevent the growth of non-target terrestrial and aquatic plants, and therefore, picloram should not be applied near water.

Picloram is a dicot-selective, persistent herbicide used to control a variety of annual and perennial broadleaved herbs and woody species. It can persist in an active form in the soil from several months to years, and can also be released from the roots of treated plants into the soil, where other non-target species may take it up and be injured or killed (Hickman et al. 1989). The cut-stump treatment is typically used to control woody species. Picloram is metabolized slowly by microbes and can be degraded through photolysis when directly exposed to sunlight. The half-life of picloram in soils can vary from one month to three years depending on soil and climate conditions. Other methods of chemical degradation do not occur readily. Picloram does not bind strongly with soils and can be highly mobile, moving to soil depths of two meters and laterally to one km.

Picloram is not readily degraded in soils and can be persistent and mobile. Estimates of the persistence of potentially toxic concentrations vary from a few months to three years, depending on soil and environmental conditions (Scrifres et al. 1972; Fryer et al. 1979; Johnsen 1980; Norris et al. 1982; Neary et al. 1985; Smith et al. 1988; Bovey & Richardson 1991; Close et al.1998). In soils where picloram persists for long periods of time, it has high potential to move vertically and horizontally, which can lead to contamination of water sources and non-target (terrestrial and aquatic) sites. Smith et al. (1988) reported that one and two years after treating a site with 3.38 kg/ha of picloram, residues were found in the soils and groundwater of an untreated site one km away.

Because picloram is water-soluble and does not bind strongly to soil, it is capable of moving into local waterways through surface and subsurface runoff (Michael et al. 1989). The extent to which picloram enters a waterway depends largely on the type of soil, rates of application, rainfall received post-application, and distance from point of application to nearest water body or groundwater (Trichell et al. 1968; Baur et al. 1972; Mayeux et al. 1984). In general, the larger the buffer between treated sites and surface water bodies or groundwater, the smaller the potential for water contamination

In non-susceptible species such as grasses, picloram is metabolized rapidly, while in susceptible species, picloram can remain intact for extended periods (WSSA 1994). When applied to soil, picloram is readily absorbed by plant roots. When applied to foliage, the majority of picloram (70-90%) remains in the leaves and only a small percentage is conducted to stems and roots (Meikle et al. 1966; Cessna et al. 1989; Hickman et al. 1990). Unabsorbed picloram remaining on leaf surfaces may photo degrade in sunlight or be washed off with rainfall or irrigation. Picloram absorbed by plants can be released into the soil by passive transport through the roots and then taken up by roots of other nearby plants (Hickman et al. 1990). Therefore, even selective application of picloram to specific target plants could potentially harm nearby desirable


Chemical name: 4-amino-3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridinecarboxylic acid
Chemical class/use:         chlorobenzoic acid herbicide

Picloram is sold in South Africa under the following brand names

Picloram is found in various herbicide mixes in South Africa under the following names
Plenum - Active Ingredients: Picloram (80g/l), Fluroxypyr (80g/l)
GLADIATOR 160 ME – Active ingredients: Fluroxypyr 80 g/l, Picloram 80 g/l
There could be others

Weed Control Methods Handbook, The Nature Conservancy, Tu et al. 

Extension Toxicology Network, A Pesticide Information Project of Cooperative Extension Offices of Cornell University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, and University of California at Davis.

Most kindly written for me for publication by Ecoman Michael Hickman on 20.08.2017 

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Alien Invasive Giant Reed, Spanish Reed Arundo donax

Spanish Reed, Giant Reed Arundo donax, giant cane, is one of the invasive alien plants that we have been eradicating at Mount Moreland and other sites in the area. Spanish Reed Arundo donax is a tall perennial cane which is mostly found growing in damp soils.  Spanish Reed Arundo donax is one of several species of grass called reeds. Spanish Reed Arundo donax is not to be confused with our local reed Phragmites australis known as uMhlanga in Zulu.

Spanish Reed Arundo donax

Spanish Reed Arundo donax is native to the Mediterranean Basin and Middle East, Asia, and probably also parts of Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula. Spanish Reed Arundo donax has been widely planted and has naturalized in most of the mild temperate, subtropical and tropical regions of both hemispheres of the world mostly in wetlands and riparian habitats.

Spanish Reed Arundo donax which is highly invasive generally grows up to 6 meters; under ideal conditions it can exceed 10 meters. Spanish Reed Arundo donax resembles a very large common reed Phragmites australis.

Spanish Reed Arundo donax that has been treated with our herbicide gel at Mount Moreland

As already said Spanish Reed Arundo donax is a highly invasive plant that is one the fastest-growing plants in the world growing up to 10 centimeters in a day;

In South Africa Spanish Reed Arundo donax has been given the Cat 1b invasive status.

Category 1b – Invasive species require compulsory control as part of an invasive species control programm. Due to their invasiveness, infestations may qualify to be placed under a government sponsored invasive species management program. No permits will be issued to keep them.

Another view of Spanish Reed Arundo donax that has been treated with our herbicide gel at Mount Moreland

In South Africa Spanish Reed Arundo donax was identified as one of those established invasive species that are most destructive. The need here is to run coherent control program and that gains are maintained. Giant Reed, Spanish Reed Arundo donax readily out-competes other vegetation, invades watercourses, road verges and moist sites away from water.

A search on the internet makes it very clear that Spanish Reed Arundo donax is difficult to control, this I have also established from my own experience. Herbicide application to mature plants is rather ineffective. Spanish Reed Arundo donax has dense growth and thick root masses which makes manual or mechanical removal difficult, this method does a lot of damage to the environment and is expensive to carry out. Deeply buried rhizome pieces re-sprout and soil-disturbance may be severe. Follow-up after manual removal is essential.

Spanish Reed Arundo donax that has been treated with our herbicide gel at Mount Moreland the result six months after treatment  

The application of herbicide is reasonably effective if one cuts back Spanish Reed Arundo donax and allowing re-growth to reach about one meter and then to spray with a glyphosate herbicide is the method most recommended. Regular follow-up over a period of about three years is required.

I together with Ecoman have developed a method of eradication that is far more effective where we cut down Spanish Reed Arundo donax then treat the re-growth with a herbicide gel that we have developed.

Inspecting Giant Reed Arundo donax that we treated with a new improved  herbicide gel last week, the results are promising

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Hlengiwe Luthuli Environmental Management

Cyrtanthus sanguineus

This is my first blog article to briefly announce to the world that I am active in the field of invasive alien weed control, identification of local as well as alien invasive plants, the rehabilitation of the natural environment, landscaping using indigenous plants as well as the launch of my website to be found at

Podranea ricasoliana
Hibiscus calyphullus

African spotted orchid Oeceoclades maculata

 African spotted orchid Oeceoclades maculata Family:                   Orchidaceae Subfamily:              Epidendroideae Tribe:      ...