Killer weed found in Selangor cemeteries

Parthenium hysterophorus - commonly known as congress grass or Santa Maria feverfew.
PHOTO: Killer weed found in Selangor cemeteries

PETALING JAYA -  The invasive weed species Parthenium hysterophorus - commonly known as congress grass or Santa Maria feverfew - has been found here.

A reader tipped off The Star to the presence of Santa Maria feverfew at the Kampung Tunku Christian and Hindu cemeteries. While some of the species are already flowering, the majority are still in their infancy.

The weeds were positively identified by Prof Dr S.M. Rezaul Karim of Universiti Malaysia Kelantan, who leads the university's Parthenium weed research group.

Previously, the presence of the weed were only noticed in Hulu Selangor, Perak, Johor, Malacca, Kedah and Negri Sembilan.

"Now that we know it is in the city centre, it is an even bigger risk as the population is more dense. People will be moving around with pollen in their noses or carrying seeds around," he told The Star.

Selangor state executive councillor in charge of environment Elizabeth Wong said she would raise the matter with the state agricultural department.

"I will ask that they inspect the site in question and act accordingly. The state office and the PJ city council (MBPJ) can work together to eradicate this weed," she said.

Taman Medan assemblyman Hanizah Talhawent could not be contacted for comment.

MBPJ public relations officer Zainun Zakaria said the council would check the cemeteries today, adding: "If the weed is really there, we will destroy it using weedkiller."

Under the Local Government Act, it is stated that MBPJ is responsible for the maintenance of burial grounds.

The Department of Agriculture's Plant Biosecurity Division director Faridah Aini Muhammad said she would get the state DOA to act swiftly.

"We must move fast when it comes to this weed. When we spray herbicide, it takes two weeks for it to totally die. But in seven weeks, you can see new seedlings sprouting," she added.

She said that now there was more awareness, new reports of infested locations were coming in.

She urged Malaysians to be aware of their surroundings and report any occurrences of the weed.

She also theorised that cemeteries were affected due to ignorant florists selling bouquets that included congress grass, which resembles baby's breath and ulam raja.