[OPINION] A thorny issue - It's time to get on our knees

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[OPINION] A thorny issue - It’s time to get on our knees
© Provided by CapeTalk

Once again this summer, when walking or running in my neighbourhood, I have noticed many grass verges riddled with weeds – specifically those which I find to be quite a nuisance. I’m talking about two in particular: bur clover (Medicago polymorpha )and the one commonly known as devil’s thorn (Tribulus Terrestris).

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Personally, I’ve had a longer-running problem with bur clover because my poor dog would come home after each walk with dozens of the seeds stuck in her fur, and especially in her paws, and would try and pull them out with her teeth, but in the end, it was I who would end up having to slowly pull them out or sometimes needing to cut the fur when they wouldn’t budge.

Despite this, she would still enjoy going on walks because they didn’t really bother her enough to put her off, but then came the devil’s thorns.

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We first encountered them at our local park where we’d go so that she could sniff around and play while our son played on the swings, but the devil’s thorns simply became too much for her to bear and she’d avoid running around as it was too painful.

These things are extremely nasty for us humans too as it rules out barefoot activity and they even penetrate sandals with thinner soles. And many a cyclist will tell you how easily they puncture bicycle tyres! When we go on walks, we tend to walk on verges as it is safer to do so (we’re trying to teach our son to avoid walking on the road whenever possible) and with these horrid things being more prevalent, our dog is reluctant to walk on the grass and feels more at ease walking on the road surface.

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[OPINION] A thorny issue - It’s time to get on our knees
© Provided by CapeTalk

The problem with these two types of weed:

The problem with these two types of weed is that they grow flat on the ground, so even with regular mowing of the grass they manage to remain and spread out, and the only way to get rid of them aside from the use of a weed killer, is to manually remove them.

We don’t have any grass outside our own property, as the driveway is paved, as is the small bit of pavement – so we’re happy not to have any of these weeds growing. What I do try and do is when I go out on a run, and I spot them growing, is to get down and find the central point from which it is radiating from, and put it out by the roots, and then dispose of it in a nearby bin. You might be asking why I’m doing this when it’s not outside my home, but I’m thinking of the bigger picture and of the consequences of not taking any action.

At this time of the year (January), those fruit pods and seeds have not yet reached maturity so they’re not yet as painful to handle and remove, but if I simply let them reach full maturity, those seeds will be dispersed wider, and even more, weeds will be growing next summer in other areas, while also causing pain to people and animals alike, as well as puncturing bicycle tyres (which besides the annoyance factor can also leave a cyclist vulnerable to crime as they can’t get away quickly)

[OPINION] A thorny issue - It’s time to get on our knees
© Provided by CapeTalk

So here’s what I’d like everyone to do:

Learn how to identify bur clover and devil’s thorn plants – take along a pair of gardening gloves when going for a walk – perhaps bring with you a weed removal tool or even a metal dinner fork with wide gaps between the tines – maybe take along a large bag to hold onto these weeds once you’ve extracted them – dispose of them thoroughly, to minimize the chance that their seeds will be spread.

When you spot these weeds in the coming weeks, get down on your knees and run your fingers along to see where it emerges from the ground. Then, using a metal fork or weed remover, carefully lift the plant out, including the roots. If you don’t have these, then carefully grasp the plant at the base, at the top of the taproot, and with a firm grip pull the entire plant out. If you have noticed that a section has grown wildly out of hand, you can lodge a C3 with the City of Cape Town, and giving them a precise location, request that they send a team to remove the weeds.

You might ask why they don’t just do this when they send council workers out to cut the grass, but as explained earlier, their lawnmowers and trimmers don’t get down low enough and their goal is to cover as large an area as they can before heading to the next area on their scheduled rounds.

[OPINION] A thorny issue - It’s time to get on our knees
© Provided by CapeTalk

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