Naming Invasive Alien Plants in Zulu

Ubobo/ Adenopodia spicata
Ubobo/ Adenopodia spicata

An interesting study is underway that looks at creating isiZulu names for invasive alien plants (IAPs). Because these plants don’t originate in South Africa very few of them have Zulu names, or are incorrectly named, which sometimes results in indigenous plants being removed along with alien invasive plants. For example, ubobo is the isiZulu name for an indigenous splinter-bean (adenopodia spicata) used by traditional Zulu communities for medicinal purposes, but an invasive alien plant shrub, leucaena, is also called ubobo. The need for the project was borne out of difficulties in educating Zulu-speaking communities about invasive alien plants. Often people find it difficult to pronounce and remember the scientific names for the plants, or their common names in other languages.

The projected started in October 2012 and the projected date for completing phase one is December 2014. The end product will be a booklet with the isiZulu names, and an explanation as to how the names were devised. Phase Two will aim to provide names in other languages and correct inappropriate names.

Click here for more information about this fascinating project.

Photograph courtesy of

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