Thursday, 15 September 2011

Henry Hacks the Hakea

What the Heck is Hakea?

First of all, we are not talking about a dance performed by the All-Black rugby team.

So what is Hakea? I'd forgive you for asking that question as I only found out over a year ago, when I stumbled across a patch of it on the Blue Hill Nature Reserve and wondered if it was endangered, endemic Willowmore Cedar! How wrong could I be.

Hakea blossoms
Hakea sericea is an aggressively invasive shrub native to south-eastern Australia and now a widespread invader in the Cape fynbos. It occurs mainly in rugged, inaccessible and fire-prone mountain areas. The species is ironically from the family Proteaceae – a family it now threatens by forming thick stands that squeeze out native Proteas. These thickets also result in intense heat when fires occur, which can kill off native species. Hakea has a canopy-stored seed bank and produces huge amounts of seed that are wind dispersed after fires. After its naturalization in 1883, Hakea spread to an area estimated to occupy about 500 000 hectares in the late 1970s. Control measures were introduced and included a combination of felling and burning, augmented by biological control and have been fairly successful.

It is now estimated to cover around 190 000 hectares. After our half a hectare that brings it down to 189 999.5 hectares :)

In an attempt to improve the ecological integrity of our landscape, I headed into the hills with French volunteer Henry Noel to deal with our Hakea thicket. With the help of a machete and 'bossie-cutter' we sweated our way through the spikey stuff. It didn't go without a fight!

Part of the Hakea Hedge

Before - drowning in Hakea

After - Victory! Henry triumphant before a pile of slain Hakea

Average Hakea Height was 3m

We also spent some time throwing rocks in dongas (erosion gulleys)

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