Biological Invasions

, Volume 19, Issue 9, pp 2711–2728 | Cite as

Chrysocoma ciliata L. (Asteraceae) in the Lesotho Highlands: an anthropogenically introduced invasive or a niche coloniser?

  • Jennifer M. FitchettEmail author
  • Marion K. Bamford
  • Anson W. Mackay
  • Stefan W. Grab
Original Paper


Over recent decades, concern has been raised regarding the management of Chrysocoma ciliata L. (Asteraceae syn. C. tenuifolia) in the eastern Lesotho Highlands. This shrub species is argued to be a Karroid invasive introduced anthropogenically within the last century. Historical botanical records in Lesotho are scarce, so the origins of this species in the region are as yet uncertain. Speculation is based on the contemporary abundance of these shrubs in overgrazed areas throughout the highlands. This study presents fossil pollen records for the eastern Lesotho Highlands which confirm the presence of this species intermittently throughout the past ~6000 cal yr BP. In so doing, this study refutes claims that the species was introduced anthropogenically within the past 100 years, and of its narrow definition as a Karoo species invasive in Lesotho. The intermittent appearance of this species in the pollen record, however, indicates that it is climate sensitive, colonising the wetlands under conditions unsuitable to other plant species. Evidence presented here calls for a re-evaluation of the categorisation of C. ciliata as an invasive in the Lesotho Highlands, and more critically, for a redevelopment of the environmental management policies which involve this species.


Chrysocoma ciliata Invasives Eastern Lesotho Pollen 



The authors thank Professor Louis Scott for his assistance in the identification of the C. ciliata pollen grains, and for his provision of the photographs 4D-J included in this manuscript. This work was funded by the National Research Foundation of South Africa and the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Palaeoscience.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer M. Fitchett
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Marion K. Bamford
    • 2
  • Anson W. Mackay
    • 3
  • Stefan W. Grab
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental StudiesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.Evolutionary Studies InstituteUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  3. 3.Environmental Change Research Centre, Department of Geography, Pearson BuildingUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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