Lillies in danger

Unsold Arum lilies left on the corner of Brighton Street and Empire Road.

Arum lilies are being endangered by illegal picking and selling of these flowers.

And the increasing number of sellers at the intersection of Victoria and Helgarda roads has raised some concerns.

Hout Bay resident Lourens Bardien said he was often in the area and noticed the increase in the number of lilies being sold.

“The flowers look as if they were ripped from the ground and some even wrapped in newspaper. You can see these guys are trying to make some quick money, which one can understand, but I don’t think they realise how damaging their actions really are,” he said.

Mr Bardien planted arum lilies at his home a few years ago and says they must be harvested in a particular way to ensure they bloom again.

“There is a certain way the flowers must be picked in order to ensure that the next batch grows successfully, but you can see the flowers are either ripped with roots and all, or they are cut in the wrong areas,” Mr Bardien added.

Jennifer Quaden has also noticed the increase in sales of the flowers.

“Everybody is trying to make some money to put food on the table, but then I add up the number of flowers and question what this is doing to our environment,” she said.

Sentinel News spoke to one of the sellers who identified himself only as Zolani and who admitted that he picked and sold the flowers illegally.

For Zolani, it is the only form of income in his household, which includes his two sisters, a three-year-old, mother and a disabled uncle. 

“I get up every morning at 4am, go down to the river side and pick the flowers fresh. I try and sell at least two or three batches a day, for only R70 a bunch,” he said.

With a minimum of R140 in his pocket, he has to see to a meal, electricity and make sure his siblings has something to eat when they wake up.

“I’m not doing this for fun, because I don’t have time for fun. It’s not funny when my brothers and sisters are crying for food or when our lights go off and we have to sleep in the dark,” Zolani said.

The City of Cape Town has warned that is this trend continues, these wildflowers may no longer be seen in Hout Bay.

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas the lilies were protected because the bulbs from which the flowers spring in the rainy season, get damaged and rot beneath the soil and most often die as a result if they are picked.

The illegal sale of the arum lilies continued, he said, “due to the lack of enforcement by SAPS to whom I have reported this often, as well as the fact that people continue to purchase these illegally picked wildflowers”.

“This means that in very short time, there will be no more of these flowers in our valley due to the illegal picking and purchase of arums,” Mr Quintas said.

Hout Bay police were unable to comment at the time of going to print.

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