During the pandemic, a tall, invasive, non-indigenous plant began to appear across the sanctuary – tagetes minuta, known as Kakiebos, Khaki bush, Mexican marigold and Stinking Roger. It originates from South America but was introduced from Spain. In the second year of the pandemic, it started to sweep through several of our habitats.
The lions and tigers have quite liked it. They force pathways through the tall kakiebos forests and since it originates from South America (where it is used like an herb and essential oil in Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Bolivia), its smell may even be familiar to some of our circus survivors! The plant is widely used in pet remedies and has a preventative value against fleas and ticks.
But on our Sanctuary, it has given us serious problems. We are re-wilding the land, planting native trees and encouraging the spread of wildflowers and natural grasses. Unfortunately, the kakiebos grows very vigorously, in dense swathes, choking the native flora. Even worse, the oil it contains is extremely flammable and if it catches fire, kakiebos burns fast and more fiercely than the native plants. It is a fire hazard in dry season which we are now entering.
So, in February we began steadily clearing the plant. It has already had two seasons to drop seed and will therefore take 2-4 seasons to clear it completely. As we clear, we will try to encourage native plants to re-colonise.
The pictures show a tractor cutting back some of the kakiebos; currently, we need to rent the tractor and operator for tasks like this and cutting our annual fire breaks, which is costly. We plan to launch an appeal soon, to raise funds to buy our own tractor – and three members of the ADIWS team are already experienced tractor drivers. Watch out for our tractor appeal!