When alien vegetation takes over, the problem just grows… and grows… and grows. Local plants are smothered, cut off from light and nutrients. This is why alien clearing is such an important element of our restoration work — like tackling the spreading bamboo in this video.


Documenting change in vegetation growth is a notoriously tricky visual problem. We’ll be using Google maps, as well as drone and ground level images to record our work. And we’ve joined a global movement that tracks restoration change, Restor, which helps us provide from-the-air visuals of our site. Check back to see how things change over time.

Where we’re working

map of pilot project areas
The Ferncliffe Pilot Project areas. The circle is The Top Dam; the red polygon is the Bamboo Forest; the purple area is The Dell; and the start of Corridors 1,2 and 3 can be seen at the top of the map from left to right.

The Dell

A beautiful stretch of indigenous forest along a stream that flows during the summer rainy season. There are mature trees to help form a canopy, but the understory has been decimated. Plants such as snake lilies and ferns have disappeared; and saplings are being crowded out too. Cestrum, an alien tree, grows skywards and then falls upon older trees, crushing and destroying them even as it send out new shoots. Almost every plant you see in this photograph is alien to South Africa. (Image: Vanessa Stephen)

  • Area size: 11,280 square metres
  • Percentage alien vegetation: 40%
  • Top alien species present: Kahili ginger lily; Ink-berry; Lantana

Top dam

The Top Dam is an old municipal dam which was leased by Connor’s father many years ago. The watercourse has dried up a lot over the years, so it has become much shallower, and aliens extend around it and march up Corridor One. It is, however an important place for local wildlife, which visit the dam to drink. It is a key area for restoration as there are a number of mature trees here and some interesting understorey species. A key aim is to clear the Mauritius Thorn creeper that could kill the trees, and start work on understorey invaders such as the ginger lilies. You can see the edge of the bamboo forest to the right.

On the left is an area that is a homogenous green: this was almost all Mauritius Thorn that is now being returned to a wetland, bisected by two streams (2022).

  • Area size: 5, 834 square metres
  • Percentage alien vegetation: 60%
  • Top alien species present: Bamboo; Ink-berry; Mauritius thorn; Bugweed
  • Area size: 5, 834 square metres
  • Percentage alien vegetation: 50%
  • Top alien species present: Bamboo; Ink-berry; Lantana (new seedlings); Bugweed (new Seedlings)
  • Trees planted: Henkel's Yellowwood, Quinine, Forest Elder, Pompon, Cape Fig, Waterberry
  • Understorey species planted: Grasses, Plectranthus, Arum lily

The Bamboo Forest

Beautiful, ethereal bamboo is swallowing every inch of this area. Skeletons of forest bushwillow and a handful of giant survivors remain. It’s a complete monoculture and is growing all the time. Time to beat back the tide! In the image below, the Bamboo Forest can be seen extending up from the bottom of the drone shot. The crowns of just a couple of trees remain. (Drone images: David Southwood)

  • Area size: 30,675 square metres
  • Percentage alien vegetation: 90%
  • Top alien species present: Bamboo (surprise!); Bugweed
  • Area size: 30,675 square metres
  • Percentage alien vegetation: 80%
  • Top alien species present: Bamboo (surprise!); Bugweed, Cat's Claw