ICS tackles invasive plants threatening Coco-de-mer population on Silhouette |26 July 2021
From La Passe on Silhouette, a steep trail leads to the enchanting Jardin Marron garden of Coco-de-mer palms.
Situated at an altitude of 400 metres, just before reaching the crest at the top, the indigenous Coco-de-mer palm (Ladoicea Maldivica) has recently been facing the threats of the sprawling invasive plants that could potentially affect its future existence.
Since June this year, the Island Conservation Society (ICS) together with partners ‒ the Islands Development Company (IDC) and Seychelles Hilton Labriz Resort & Spa ‒ started a habitat rehabilitation project to tackle the threat. Extensive work was carried out on an expanse of 50 square metres, about half of the area already invaded by invasive plants and creepers.
The alien species, Merremia (Merremia peltate) commonly known as Lalyann gran fey in Creole, are usually found on the main islands of Mahe and Silhouette. They are known to be aggressive and vigorous invasive creepers. This coarse climbing vine with underground tubers, tend to spread out of control. They grow first in small areas then extend rapidly, crawling onto indigenous species, strangling and smothering them. These fast-growing procumbent plants can grow up to 20 metres high and therefore can easily suffocate the garden's population of towering adult Coco-de-mer plants as well as the juvenile ones.
This monstrous threat, if not consistently and aggressively dealt with raises alarm bells.
Since Lalyann gran fey spreads mainly in two ways, either by sprawling onto nearby vegetation or by rooting from its nodes or seeds, cutting and uprooting it from the ground are methods that were determined for eradication. And because the plant species is tough and resilient the project will continue during the coming months.
The iconic Coco-de- mer palm only grows naturally on Praslin and Curieuse islands. Since its introduction to the hills of Silhouette in the 1940s, the endemic palm population on about 4,000 square metres, has been thriving well at the heart of Jardin Marron. ICS' objective is to keep maintaining a healthy habitat for the Coco-de-mer plants and promote germination.
The garden that accounts for part of Silhouette's history is also the largest area of Coco-de-mer habitat introduced across Seychelles' islands.
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Compiled by Said Harryba, (ACO) Island Conservation Society