The unseen battle against the wild sunflower

The Wild Sunflower is an allelopathic plant, spreading toxins from all its parts - leaves, stems, flowers and seeds - that deter the growth of other plants or even kills them.

By ALON EINHORN
June 27, 2019 05:30
1 minute read.
A wild sunflower

A wild sunflower. (photo credit: PUBLIC DOMAIN)

 
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In a small lab in Kiryat Shmona’s Academic and Technology College of Tel-Hai, a battle is being fought against an opponent none of us knew could even pose a threat: the wild sunflower.

The wild sunflower is an allelopathic plant, which means it spreads toxins from all its parts – leaves, stems, flowers, seeds – that deter the growth of other plants or even kills them.

Approximately 40 years ago, the first seeds of the wild sunflower made its way to Israel, probably after it was mixed in fish food. Since then, the species has spread across the country.

“They can create a lot of damage, and once they find their way between different crops, it is very hard to exterminate them,” Dr. Sariel Hübner told Channel 12 news.

The sunflower’s potential to eliminate other plants poses a threat to the ecosystem, which in turn could harm wildlife as well.

To identify the growth of the wild sunflowers and control its spreading through the country, the researchers at the college created a Facebook page dedicated to locating and recording places infested with this invasive plant.

Called “Sunflowers in Israel,” the page has already received dozens of alerts from all across the country. The sightings are marked on the map, showing exactly how fast the plant is spreading.

Although a strategy to effectively combat the spreading of the sunflower has not yet been discovered, the campaign raises awareness to the dangers of the plant. Meanwhile, the researchers are trying to learn more about it.

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