Mikania (Mikania micrantha) is an exotic perennial herbaceous vine. It is originally from the typical south and Central America, but is now widely spread throughout India, Southeast Asia, Pacific islands and South China including Guangdong and Hong Kong.
Similar to the habit of other climbers, Mikania climbs up other plants to reach the canopy for better sunlight. Even worse, its leaves grow vigorously and cover up other plants eventually causing damage or even killing other plants by cutting out the light for photosynthesis and smothering them. Mikania sprawls out rapidly in spring and summer which is the reason for its name “mile-a-minute weed”.
The Mikania problem in Hong Kong
The first record of Mikania in Hong Kong dates back to 1884 but the plant has only become a weed in recent years. It is now usually found in low-lying, moist and disturbed areas with ample sunlight such as derelict fields, fishpond bund, roadside, and woodland edge around village environs. In Hong Kong, Mikania starts flowering in September and sets fruits from November to February the next year. It produces numerous flowers and a huge amount of seeds with a very high germination rate. These properties are attributable to the high spreading rate of Mikania.
Inadequate sunlight will suppress the fruiting, seed germination and growth of Mikania. As such, it does not grow well in shaded environment and therefore has not caused significant adverse impact on established woodland and plantations. However, there have been signs of spreading of Mikania in Hong Kong, especially in the abandoned farmland possibly due to the decline of agricultural activities in recent decades. Moreover, woodland edge, roadside areas and disturbed areas after construction projects are also susceptible to invasion of Mikania. There is growing concern about the potential impact of Mikania to natural vegetation.
The WWF HK, have been working on sustainable solutions and ways to reuse this weed. One of the current solutions is to take this weed and turn it into sustainable buttons. The buttons are durable and help to make use of the weed once removed by creating a practical use for it and avoiding the use of chemicals in its removal.
Slide show - click to see more images
WWF are currently looking for a retail brand or organisation to partner with to be able to create these at scale.
Contact Dr Patrick Yeung, Manager, Oceans Conversation at WWF- Hong Kong for further information: wwf.org.hk or firstname.lastname@example.org