Parthenium, a poisonous alien plant species, is quietly spreading through Hualien. There have already been several cases of the plant — which looks like the non-poisonous species Gypsohilia — being picked and taken home by unsuspecting nature lovers.
The Agriculture Division of the Ji’an Township Office has asked local residents and tourists to be wary of the plant’s poisonous cilia — hairlike protuberances on the plant — which can cause inflammation of the nose and even serious liver lesions.
Parthenium, listed by the Council of Agriculture’s Endemic Species Research Institute as one of the 20 alien species most damaging to Taiwan’s ecology, is thought to have invaded Taiwan when it was mixed with imported grain, just like Mikania micrantha, another alien plant.
Until recently, Parthenium had only been spotted in Kaohsiung and Pingtung, but now it looks like its territory has spread. Over the past two months, it has been spotted in Hualien’s Ji’an, Shoufeng, and Sinchen Townships.
Ji’an’s Agriculture Division says that the plant is highly adaptable, growing in native species’ traditional territory such as farmlands, paddy fields, and low altitude hillsides. It has also invaded residents’ backyards and can be found on both sides of the township’s cycling path, posing a threat to local residents and tourists.
Township Chief Tien Chih-shuan says that to prevent the plant from spreading further, cleaners are being sent to eliminate it at each township. If the public see it, they should report it to the local authorities, to prevent people from touching it. Township Representative Huang Cheng-fu suggested that the Environmental Protection Bureau of the Hualien County Government mobilize its “community beautifiers” to launch an investigation to make the cleanup operation more efficient.
Originally from the tropics of Central and South America, Parthenium is a member of the Asteraceae family. It grows to between 30cm and 150cm, and has short soft hair on the edges of its leaves, making it easy to confuse with Gypsophila, a common flower in floral art.
Parthenium blossoms throughout the year and branches every 5cm. In addition to being an “eco-killer,” the poisonous species is dangerous to touch. It has claimed the lives of sheep and oxen in Australia, India and elsewhere.
The best time to eradicate the plant is right before its blossom in early spring, when the chances of reproduction and pollination can be reduced. In addition to being pulled out by hand, farmers can use agricultural machinery or weedicide. After the plant has been pulled out, it should be let to rot in a plastic bag or incinerated.
(LIBERTY TIMES, TRANSLATED BY EDDY CHANG)
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