“I saw a cyclist stopping to pick a nice bunch of pink Pompom flowers next to Cedar Road in Nooitgedacht and I decided ‘That’s it!’ I would do my school study for the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists on this terrible weed.”
Fifteen year-old Christopher Tanton’s project was entitled ‘Pink Death’: a study on the effectiveness of various methods in eradicating the infamous Pompom weed. He walked away with first prize in the Grassland Society of Southern Africa Award for the Best Grassland Project at Eskom’s regional finals this year.
Christopher, a grade nine learner at HeronBridge College in Gauteng, lives in Vlakfontein in the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy near Lanseria Airport. He decided to do his study on a subject that is close to many residents’ hearts: how to get rid of the hated Pompom.
“Part of the reason why he opted for the project was seeing the impact of this invasive plant on our lives - the constant fight to rid the veld of it every summer,” says Jaqui, his mother. “The time, effort and cost involved are immense.”
Pompom’s fine seeds are wind-borne and landowners who do not control infestation on their lands add to the considerable burden of those who do.
Christopher demarcated a section of veld near his home for the study. “I divided the area into six quadrants,” he explained, “and measured the growth of the Pompom weeds over a three-month period. In each quadrant I tested a different method of eradication against a control quadrant.
“I tested both chemical and physical methods and the results showed that using a combination of chemical and physical methods was most effective in reducing the growth of new stems and buds in the short term.”
“He's always shown a keen interest in what's happening on the farm,” says Jaqui. “From very young he has not only had the privilege of being exposed to environmental issues but also to be involved in them - cleaning litter from the roadsides, burning annual firebreaks, and so on. His grandfather, Terry O’Donoghue, has been a key person in developing his interest in and love for the veld and the bush.”
Christopher’s proposal to extend the study over a longer period has been accepted. He will also test whether early intervention makes a significant difference to the growth of this invasive plant.
His interests include cricket, being in the bush and photography. He plans to study engineering when he finishes school.
VeldTalk salutes Christopher. It shows you’re never too young (or old) to get involved in saving our grasslands!