UNDESIRABLE NATURAL CHARACTERISTICS OF SOUTH AFRICAN INDIGENOUS PLANTS LIMITING THEIR HORTICULTURAL USE

L. Middleton
Bringing new ornamental plants onto the market is difficult at present, because newcomers face stiff competition from the very large numbers of ornamentals already on offer the world over. While a steady crop turnover is essential for economic survival in the horticulture industry, the commercial success of new ornamental plants about to make their debut on the market can never be guaranteed. It follows, therefore, that one should avoid sourcing new ornamental plants from nature with characteristics which are clearly undesirable, in order to reduce the commercial risks associated with introducing new plants to the market, as well as to ensure that new ornamentals provide optimal safety and enjoyment to consumers. Part of this study was thus devoted to examining those key undesirable characteristics occurring naturally in wild plants among indigenous South African flora. Certain plants exhibit adverse characteristics that make them unsuitable for use in human living environments, such as their peculiar survival and reproductive strategies, as well as their unwelcome interactions with other plants or organisms. Poisonous plants, plants producing allergens, thorns, irritating trichomes, exudates and latex are particularly undesirable. Many attractive indigenous plants require seasonal burning by means of veld fires to stimulate growth and flowering, but replicating such occurrences in urban settings is both difficult and potentially very dangerous. Plant species which develop exceptionally large underground structures with tuberous roots as a means of survival are obviously not suited for small living spaces. Plants using specialised reproductive strategies, such as monocarpic plants that die after flowering only once during their lifetime, may cause disappointment to their unsuspecting owners. In addition, people may be repulsed by the malodorous aromas which some plants produce in order to attract their special pollinators, like flies and bottle flies, on which they depend; consumers may also not welcome the unwanted organisms which these plants draw into human living spaces. Specialised symbiotic associations found, for example, in parasitic plants, cannot be simulated in cultivation processes and this fact renders these types of plants unsuitable for horticultural production. These aspects, and others, will be discussed in further detail.
Middleton, L. (2013). UNDESIRABLE NATURAL CHARACTERISTICS OF SOUTH AFRICAN INDIGENOUS PLANTS LIMITING THEIR HORTICULTURAL USE. Acta Hortic. 1007, 235-240
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2013.1007.23
https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2013.1007.23
poisonous, fire, large roots, monocarpic, malodorous aromas, untidy appearance, symbiotic associations, domestication
English

Acta Horticulturae