Biological Invasions

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 125–133 | Cite as

The impact of fire, and its potential role in limiting the distribution of Bryophyllum delagoense (Crassulaceae) in southern Africa

Original Paper


Increasing emphasis has been placed on identifying traits of introduced species which predispose them to invade, and characteristics of ecosystems which make them susceptible to invasion. Habitat disturbance such as floods, fires and tree-falls may make ecosystems more prone to invasion. However, in this study the absence of fire was considered to be a factor in facilitating the invasion potential of a Madagascan endemic, Bryophyllum delagoense. Fire trials in South Africa killed 89 and 45% of B. delagoense plants in a high and low intensity controlled fire, respectively, with tall plants and those growing in clumps more likely to escape being killed. A reduction in the incidence and intensity of fires may therefore facilitate the invasion of B. delagoense and contribute to its invasive potential. Overgrazing, which reduces the frequency and intensity of fires probably facilitates the invasion of large and small succulent species. In South Africa, B. delagoense is still considered to be a minor weed or garden escape, despite its introduction to southern Africa 175 years earlier than in Australia, where it is extremely invasive. However, other succulents such as Opuntia species have become invasive on both continents, confounding our hypothesis that fire may be inhibiting B. delagoense from becoming invasive in southern Africa. However, closer analysis of Opuntia literature indicates that smaller species, similar in size to B. delagoense, are more likely to be killed, even by low intensity fires. We speculate that B. delagoense is more invasive in Australia because of a reduction in the frequency and intensity of fires and that fire is, amongst other factors, largely responsible for inhibiting its invasion potential in southern Africa.


Bryophyllum delagoense Crassulaceae Fire Opuntia 


  1. Alexander ME (1982) Calculating and interpreting forest fire intensities. Can J Bot 60:349–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Australia’s Virtual Herbarium (2008) Cited June 2008
  3. Benson L, Walkington DL (1965) The southern Californian prickly pears—invasion, adulteration, and trail-by-fire. Ann Mo Bot Gard 52:262–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Biswell HH (1989) Prescribed burning in California wildlands vegetation management. University of California Press, BerkeleyGoogle Scholar
  5. Boiteau P, Allorge-Boiteau L (1995) Kalanchoe (Crassulacées) de Madagascar. Systématique, Écophysiologie et Phytochimie, Karthala, ParisGoogle Scholar
  6. Brooks ML, D’Antonio CM, Richardson DM, Grace JB, Keeley JE, DiTomaso JM, Hobbs RJ, Pellant M, Pyke D (2004) Effects of invasive alien plants on fire regimes. Bioscience 54(7):677–688CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bunting SC, Wright HA, Neuenschwander LF (1980) Long-term effects of fire on cactus in the southern mixed prairie of Texas. J Range Manage 33(2):85–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Byram GM (1959) Combustion of forest fuels. In: Davis KP (ed) Forest fire: control and use. McGraw Hill, New York, pp 155–182Google Scholar
  9. Catchpole W (2002) Fire properties and burn patterns in heterogenous landscapes. In: Bradstock RA, Williams JE, Gill AM (eds) Flammable Australia: the fire regimes and biodiversity of a continent. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 49–75Google Scholar
  10. Cave GH, Patten DT (1984) Short-term vegetation responses to fire in the upper Sonoran desert. J Range Manage 37(6):491–496CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. D’Antonia CM (2000) Fire, plant invasions, and global changes. In: Mooney HA, Hobbs RJ (eds) Invasive species in a changing world. Island Press, Washington, DC, pp 65–93Google Scholar
  12. DiTomaso JM (2006) Control of invasive plants with prescribed fire. In: DiTomaso JM, Johnson DW (eds) The use of fire as a tool for controlling invasive plants. California Invasive Plant Council, Berkeley, pp 7–18Google Scholar
  13. Dwyer DD, Pieper RD (1967) Fire effects of blue gramapinyon-juniper rangelands in New Mexico. J Range Manage 20:359–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ellenberg H (1981) Ursachen des vorkommens und fehlens von sukkulenten in den trockengebieten der erde. Flora 171:114–169Google Scholar
  15. Foxcroft LC, Rouget M, Richardson DM, MacFadyen S (2004) Reconstructing 50 years of Opuntia stricta invasion in the Kruger National Park, South Africa: environmental determinants and propagule pressure. Divers Distrib 10:427–437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. GenStat® for Windows® (2003) Seventh edition. VSN International Ltd, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  17. Glendening GE (1952) Some quantitative data on the increase of mesquite and cactus on a desert grassland range in southern Arizona. Ecology 33:319–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Govender N, Trollope WSW, van Wilgen BW (2006) The effect of fire season, fire frequency, rainfall and management on fire intensity in savanna vegetation in South Africa. J Appl Ecol 43:748–758CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hannan-Jones MA, Playford J (2002) The biology of Australian weeds 40. Bryophyllum Salisb. species. Plant Prot Q 17:42–57Google Scholar
  20. Heirman AL, Wright HA (1973) Fire in the medium fuels of west Texas. J Range Manage 26:331–335CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Henderson L (2001) Alien weeds and invasive plants: a complete guide to declared weeds and invaders in South Africa. Plant protection research institute handbook no. 12, ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute, PretoriaGoogle Scholar
  22. Hottman MT, O’Connor TG (1999) Vegetation change over 40 years in the Weenen/Muden area, KwaZulu-Natal: evidence from photo-panoramas. Afr J Range Forage Sci 16(2–3):71–88Google Scholar
  23. Humphrey RR, Everson AC (1951) Effect of fire on a mixed grass-shrub range in southern Arizona. J Range Manage 4:264–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kerley GIH, Knight MH, de Kock M (1995) Desertification of subtropical thicket in the Eastern Cape, South Africa: are there alternatives? Environ Monit Assess 37:211–230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lambdon PW, Hulme PE (2006) Predicting the invasion success of Mediterranean alien plants from their introduction characteristics. Ecography 29:853–865CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Levitt J (1972) Responses of plants to environmental stresses. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. Lloret F, Médail F, Brundu G, Camarda I, Moragues E, Rita J, Lambdon P, Hulme PE (2005) Species attributes and invasion success by alien plants on Mediterranean islands. J Ecol 93:512–520CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lososová Z, Chytrý M, Kühn I (2008) Plant attributes determining the regional abundance of weeds on central European arable land. J Biogeogr 35:177–187Google Scholar
  29. Lüttge U (2004) Ecophysiology of Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM). Ann Bot 93:629–652CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Midgley JJ, Bond WJ (2001) A synthesis of the demography of African acacias. J Trop Ecol 17(6):871–886CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Mooney HA, Hobbs RJ (2000) Invasive species in a changing world. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  32. NASA/University of Maryland (2002) MODIS hotspot/active fire detections. Data set. MODIS rapid response project, NASA/GSFC [producer] University of Maryland, Fire Information for Resource Management System [distributors]. Available on-line at
  33. Naughton M, Bourke C (2005) Mother of millions (Bryophyllum delagoense). Primefacts 45. NSW Department of Primary IndustriesGoogle Scholar
  34. Rejmánek M, Richardson D, Higgins SL, Pitcairn MJ, Grotkopp E (2005) Ecology of invasive plants: state of the art. In: Mooney HA, Mack RM, McNeely JA, Neville L, Schei P, Waage J (eds) Invasive alien species: searching for solutions. Island Press, Washington, DC, pp 104–161Google Scholar
  35. Reynolds HG, Bohning JW (1956) Effects of burning on a desert grass-shrub range in southern Arizona. Ecology 37:769–776CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Snedecor GW, Cochran WG (1980) Statistical methods, 7th edn. Iowa State University Press, AmesGoogle Scholar
  37. Steenbergh WF, Lowe CH (1983) Ecology of the Saguaro: II, reproduction, germination, establishment, growth, and survival of the young plant. United States National Park Service Scientific Monograph Series 8Google Scholar
  38. ‘t Hart H, Eggli U (1995) Introduction: evolution of Crassulaceae systematics. In: ‘t Hart H, Eggli U (eds) Evolution and systematics of the Crassulaceae. Backhuys, Leiden, pp 7–15Google Scholar
  39. Theoharides KA, Dukes JS (2007) Plant invasion across space and time: factors affecting non-indigenous species success during four stages of invasion. New Phytol 176:256–273CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Thomas PA (1991) Response of succulents to fire: a review. Int J Wildland Fire 1(1):11–22Google Scholar
  41. Thomas PA (2006) Mortality over 16 years of cacti in a burnt desert grassland. Vegetatio 183(1):9–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Thomas PA, Goodson P (1992) Conservation of succulents in desert grasslands managed by fire. Biol Conserv 60:91–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Thrash I (1998) Association of three succulent plant species with woody canopy in the mixed bushveld, South Africa. Koedoe 41(2):95–101Google Scholar
  44. Tothill JC, Gillies CG (1992) The pasture lands of northern Australia. Tropical grassland society of Australia occasional publication no. 5, BrisbaneGoogle Scholar
  45. Van Wilgen BW, Biggs HC, O’Regan S, Mare N (2000) A fire history of the savanna ecosystems in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, between 1941 and 1996. S Afr J Sci 96:167–178Google Scholar
  46. Walker KF (1993) Issues in the riparian ecology of large rivers. In: Bunn SE, Pusey BJ, Price P (eds) Ecology and management of riparian zones in Australia. The Land and Water Resources Research and Development Corporation and the Centre for Catchment and In-stream Research, Griffith University, Canberra, pp 31–40Google Scholar
  47. Whelan RJ (1995) The ecology of fire. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  48. Wilson AD (1990) The affects of grazing on Australian ecosystems. Proc Ecol Soc Aust 16:235–244Google Scholar
  49. Witt ABR, Rajaonarison JH (2004) Insects associated with Bryophyllum delagoense (Crassulaceae) in Madagascar and prospects for biological control of this weed. Afr Entomol 12:1–7Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ARC-Plant Protection Research InstituteQueenswoodSouth Africa
  2. 2.Ecophysiological Studies Research Programme, School of Animal, Plant and Environmental SciencesUniversity of the WitwatersrandWitsSouth Africa
  3. 3.CABI AfricaNairobiKenya

Personalised recommendations