Invasive, endemic, indigenous and exotic species

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Article Written By: Sue Both
GardenShop’s GardenGuru

We are often asked the difference between invasive species, endemic species, indigenous species and exotic species. A clear understanding between these terms, can help gardeners make wise, informed choices when it comes to planting.

  • Invader: An invasive species is a plant listed by the Department of Forestry and Water Affairs as a naturalised plant (a plant that will spread without human interference) – that endangers either the water security of our country or encroaches on the natural eco-system of a particular area. Invaders are classified in categories. Category 1 plants have to be eradicated. Category 2 plants may remain if they are already planted but no new plants may be cultivated, sold or planted and Category 3 plants are usually area specific and legislation specifies the affected areas and to what extent.
  • Endemic Plants: These are plants that will grow naturally in a specific area. A Podocarpus may be an indigenous South African plant but it is only endemic to certain areas, such as the coastal forest regions in the Eastern Cape, but it is not endemic to Gauteng.
  • Indigenous Plants: These are all the species that will naturally occur within all the eco-systems within South African borders.
  • Exotic species: are plants that have their origins outside the borders of South Africa. Even though some exotic species are naturalised it does not mean that they have invasive status.

A gardener who knows exactly what plants they are dealing with, can make informed decisions about what plants they use in their gardens, without disturbing the eco-system or environment.

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