Original Research

The influence of baboon predation and time in water on germination and early establishment of Opuntia stricta (Australian pest pear) in the Kruger National Park

W.D. Lotter, L. Thatcher, L. Rossouw, C.F. Reinhardt
Koedoe | Vol 42, No 1 | a220 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v42i1.220 | © 1999 W.D. Lotter, L. Thatcher, L. Rossouw, C.F. Reinhardt | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 July 1999 | Published: 31 July 1999

About the author(s)

W.D. Lotter,, South Africa
L. Thatcher, University of Pretoria, South Africa
L. Rossouw, University of Pretoria, South Africa
C.F. Reinhardt, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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Abstract

The alien invader weed, Opuntia stricta Haw (family Cactaceae), is seriously threatening biodiversity in veld habitats of the Kruger National Park. Basic biological and ecological information on the establishment, growth and reproduction of the species is necessary for the development of effective strategies for its control. The rapid spread of the plant is apparently mainly due to seed dispersal by baboon (Papio ursinus). Sixty percent of seed taken from baboon faeces resulted in seedlings that established. Although palatability criteria for ripe fruit were more favourable than for unripe or medium-ripe fruit, seed from fruit at all three degrees of ripeness germinated equally well, and seedling establishment was similar. Despite their lower acidity, as well as higher total soluble sugar content and pH, cladodes are not subject to herbivory to near the extent that ripe fruit are. Freshly collected seed kept in Sabie River water showed significantly better germination/emergence after seven days submersion (83 ) than at 14 or 28 days (52 and 66 , respectively). Results suggest that seed dispersal of the species by animals, principally baboon, is an important cause of rapidly expanding infestations, and that dissipation in water will intensify the problem. Current findings should contribute toward the development of long-term weed management strategies aimed at con- tainment/eradication of the weed.

Keywords

alien invader, baboon, germination, Opuntia stricta, seed, weed.

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