Alien plants in the Eastern Cape province in South Africa: perceptions of their contributions to livelihoods of local communities.
Invasive alien plant species are plant species that establish themselves outside their native distributional range. The current study documented utilization of alien plant species in the Eastern Cape province in South Africa. Information about utilization of alien plant species was gathered through interviews conducted with 120 participants, which included 13 traditional healers, 27 herbalists, ten farmers and 70 laypeople. Ethnobotanical importance of documented species was assessed through evaluation of use value (UV), fidelity level (FL) and relative frequency citation (RFC). A third of the participants (33.3%) perceived alien plant species as undesirable, while 71.1% of the participants argued that alien plant species had beneficial effects. A total of 26 alien plant species were recorded, seven species being fruit trees, followed by ornamental plants (five species), fodder and herbal medicines (four species each), construction materials, erosion control and vegetables (two species each). The popular alien plant species with UV > 0.1, RFC > 0.4 and FL > 4.0% included Amaranthus spinosus, Cannabis sativa, Cereus jamaracu, Harrisia balansae, Opuntia engelmannii, Opuntia ficus-indica, Opuntia monocantha and Prunus persica. Information on perceptions of local communities in the Eastern Cape province on the contributions of alien plant species to livelihood needs is an important stage of initiating a management protocol that incorporates public perceptions and values associated with alien plant species.