Beware of exotic plants. I will reel off what they have done to the ecology of this country.
First in the list: water hyacinth. It is said that it was brought by an English lady on a boat from South America who was enchanted with the purple flower and the deep green leaves. One hundred years later, it has choked waterways and sucked the life-giving oxygen needed for small aquatic beings.
Second, lantana. It is is said that it was brought again from South America during the World War II by some soldier who was attracted by its gaudy efflorescence. Sixty years later it has become the worst weed on land, usurping the space and nutrition that could be used by more useful plants.
Third: eucalyptus. Which is now so indigenised that it is called Nilgiri. The name came because it was first introduced in the Nilgiris. There are 700 species of the tree. However, what we see in India is citriodora which is lemon-scented variety. Only for some time it has been discovered that its rate of transpiration is high and it lowers the water-table. The Forest Dept has stopped using it. However, it has covered a vast area. One advantage the tree has is that it is quick-growing and it gives straight logs that can be used in village houses.
Next, ipomoeia. In countryside it is known as besharam as it is so hardy. This was brought from Australia. Was introduced in villages mainly for fencing purposes. Half a century later it has become a nuisance in the villages occupying large tracts of land.
Fifth, vilayati babool (prosopis juliflora). Brought from South America, I think. For reclamation of ravines, its seeds were spread from planes and helicopters. Desi babool (acacia nilotica/arabica) gives timber which is used for agricultural implements. Also it is used by birds for nesting as being thorny it is safer from predators. But prosopis is more bushy and so dense it it impossible for the birds to nest. It does not yield any timber.
Sixth, acacia auriculiformis. Again brought from Australia. This looks like miniature eucalyptus. The Forest department is very fond of it as it is quick growing and hardly needs any care. Widely used to satisfy environmentalists for substitute plantation. Life I am told is 30-35 years and apart from its bio-mass it hardly has any use. Another useless item in the stable of firangi plants.
Next, gajar grass. They say its seeds came with the hybrid Mexican wheat when it first came to India. That is not too far back. Four decades or even less. And it has become a menace, more so because its flower is highly allergic, and the leaves injurious to the human skin.
And last in the list, subabool (leucaena leucocephala). Again quick-growing reaching its full height of about 8 metres in about 3 years. It was earlier known as koobabool. Then somebody convinced Mrs. Gandhi (the original) of its virtues. It is nutritious for the cattle. However, it has also faded into oblivion as otherwise it hardly has any use.
There is only one success story of silviculture of Indian forestry. And that is Teak. The efforts to propagate the stately shaal (shorea robusta) under whose shade Sidddhartha or Gautam Buddha was born, have been a miserable failure. Anyway it is time to think of relying on local varieties instead of directly lifting some from abroad which may ultimately prove to be not so adaptable or not so useful.
Here I would also mention two garden trees which are unbelievably beautiful flowering trees, pride of any large or mid-sized garden. They are Chinese Bauhinia (Bauhinia blakeana ) and Chorisia speciosa. B. balakeana is a sterile tree so it can only be propagaaaaated by cutting. This was discovered by the English in Hongkong from a house in ruins. It must have been brought by the Bristish. The second is a treat to the eyes which has been planted in plenty in the rooudaboouts of New Delhi. This has been brought after Independence from South America. Though it is not directly connected with our topic but I could not resist mentioning them!
*** *** *** *** *** ***