Alien Bamboos in South Africa: a Socio-Historical Perspective

  • Susan Canavan
  • David M. Richardson
  • Johannes J. Le Roux
  • John R. U. Wilson


Changes in fashions and economic imperatives underlying plant introductions have a profound influence on the movement of species around the world. Using bamboo introductions into South Africa as a case-study, we explore these issues by assessing historical trends through a literature review and determining current human perceptions based on a questionnaire distributed via social media. We identify five main phases of introduction and distribution of bamboos in South Africa associated with: (1) the intra-African migration of people; (2) the arrival of Europeans; (3) growth of the agricultural and forestry sectors; (4) small-scale domestic use by landowners; and (5) the rise of the “green economy.” Our narrative is built around 27 alien bamboo species (taxa mentioned in the literature that could be linked to currently accepted nomenclature). Bamboos were among the first plants introduced to South Africa by European settlers, and they are still used and valued by many landowners, although on a small-scale. Bamboos now create conflicts of interest because they are both valued and perceived to be weeds (the latter particularly by people who do not utilise them).


Alien species Biological invasions Conflicts of interest Human usage Perceptions South Africa 



SC thanks the following people for their help and guidance: Joubert Roux, Adrian Sutton, Felix Sorour, Brett Bennett, Selvan Naidoo, Ingrid Nanni, Reshnee Lalla, Nolwethu Jubase. We would also like to thank all the questionnaire participants for taking the time to contribute to the study, and two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript. This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of South Africa (grants 85412 to JRUW, 626 85417 to DMR, 91117 to JJLR); and the South African National Department of Environment Affairs through its funding of the South African National Biodiversity Institute and the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval and Informed Consent

Ethical clearance to conduct the research was obtained from the National Health Research Ethics Committee (NHREC: REC-050411-032) at Stellenbosch University (SU-HSD-004196). All ethical standards were adhered to. The relevant local authorities were approached for permission to conduct the research and formal, free, prior and informed consent was obtained from all participants. Anonymity was assured.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10745_2018_41_MOESM1_ESM.docx (214 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 214 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Invasion Biology, Department of Botany and ZoologyStellenbosch UniversityMatielandSouth Africa
  2. 2.South African National Biodiversity Institute, Kirstenbosch Research CentreClaremontSouth Africa
  3. 3.Department of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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