Journal of Biodiversity Management & ForestryISSN: 2327-4417

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Naming Invasive Alien Plants into Indigenous Languages: KwaZulu-Natal Case Study, South Africa

The spread of invasive alien plants (IAPs) across countries does not only dilute the indigenous biodiversity richness and degrade the environmental integrity of local environments, but it also threatens human livelihoods. Although no studies have been conducted on the relationship between IAPs and indigenous knowledge on plants, contributors suspect that IAPs might have negative impacts on cultural application of indigenous plants, more especially in the case of medicinal plant use. In the province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South Africa, where there are mainly isiZulu speakers, the use of plants for various human benefits is still relatively high. Plants are used for many reasons including traditional medicine, food, shelter and cultural rituals such as during burial ceremonies of family members. In certain parts of KZN, when a person is buried, a row of medium-sized logs of Black Wattle (Acacia mearnsii) are put on top of the casket to prevent soil from piling directly on top of the casket. Traditional healers rely heavily on certain plants to meet their different objectives and this now includes IAPs. Traditionally, they would use indigenous plants, which are known by their isiZulu common names but with the influx of IAPs, confusion between indigenous and alien plants has crept in.In some instances, an indigenous plant and an alien plant which resemble each other now even share the same isiZulu common name. Alternatively, there is confusion when one has to collect an indigenous plant but cannot differentiate between that and a similar IAP, which might not have an isiZulu common name (in that case it does not matter whether the IAP has an isiZulu common name or not). Additional problems arise when the intention is to propagate an indigenous species and an IAP ends up being unintentionally propagated. Furthermore, where indigenous plants have been over-utilized and become scarce to find and thus switching to an IAP that resembles the scarce indigenous plant, becomes an option. To make matters worse, when naming IAPs if the process is unregulated, IAPs are given attractive, positive names that unintentionally might create an impression that “these plants are good”. The intention of this article then was;
a) To advocate for the naming of IAPs into indigenous languages and that the naming process should be structured and regulated,
b) To systematically suggest names for some of the dominant IAPs within eThekwini Municipality, KZN province of South Africa, as a case study,
c) To review existing isiZulu common names of some IAPs to make sure those names are not confused with those of indigenous plants (NB: Some English common names of IAPs also need to be reviewed!);
d) To advocate for IAPs to be given negative names and finally,
e) To facilitate the naming process and adoption of isiZulu common names for IAPs.

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