Lockdown weeds busted through collaboration

Andreas Wetzel hard at work, gathering the plants out of the water.

During the lockdown the popular Poinsettia dam in Heldervue, Somerset West, looked like a green field, and this weed overgrowth had residents and passers-by via the R44 very worried.

Salvinia molesta, commonly known as giant salvinia (or as kariba weed, after it infested a large portion of Lake Kariba between Zimbabwe and Zambia), is an aquatic fern, native to south-eastern Brazil.

It is a free-floating plant that does not attach to the soil, but instead remains buoyant on the surface of a body of water.

This pesky plant had been controlled in the past by both the City’s Water Catchment and Environmental Departments, as well as some of the fishermen who enjoyed catching karp in the beautiful dam.

Now everyone was stuck at home so the usual system came to a halt.

As luck would have it, a group of residents had just registered the Friends of Poinsettia Park group, to support local authorities in caring for the green belt.

This is a membership association aiming at the protection, conservation and enhancement of the park, in association with the City.

The group made contact with Councillor Greg Peck, and established that it was at the time impossible for the City to remove the weeds manually with their machines, due to very limited staff during Level 5 and Level 4 of the lockdown.

At this point the dam was completely overgrown, and there was concern that the water would become toxic due to a lack of oxygen. So… urgent action was called for.

On a bitterly cold June day, residents and members of the Friends group took charge of the situation to rescue the dam.

Ephan Potgieter and his son Sean, who live right next to the dam, braved the cold and pulled out the weeds from inside the water.

Others joined on the banks with rakes, hooks and ropes to haul them ashore. Mounds of weeds lined the banks like new dam walls.

Sandran Weder brought a steaming pot of spicey soup to warm up the weeders. At least half the weeds were removed that day.

And then our ward councillor ensured that the City took over. They removed the piles of weeds and the rest of the infestation.

It was established that the plant favours the dam because of specific nutrients in the water. The City has now undertaken to investigate the cause of the water contamination, which is indeed the root of the problem.

Poinsettia dam is once again a very popular fishing and recreation spot much enjoyed by the locals and now even more so the children who are still stuck at home.

Yesterday some even soaked up some sunlight while topless fishing it was a sunny day.

This all shows you what can be achieved if residents work together with the local authorities and have good communication channels with their councillor.

Thanks to Mr Peck, the wall of the higher dam was also fixed, as well as both dams’ overflow pipes unblocked. Now we are ready for the big rains…

Friends of Poinsettia Park’s Committee consists of Elma Pollard, chair; Jacob du Plesses, vice chair; Febe van Tonder, treasurer; Erna Wetzel, secretary; and members Heloise Heyns, Angie Roux, Steve Prinsloo and Herman MacDonald.

Anyone keen to join the Friends group is most welcome. Call 021 855 0518 for more information.

Elma Pollard is the editor of Green Times, and has written numerous environmental articles for Bolander in the past.