Exotic Plants

9 views
Skip to first unread message

Anand Kumar Bhatt

unread,
May 12, 2008, 1:54:22 AM5/12/08
to indiantreepix
I wrote this quite sometime back. It was published in 'Femina' as well. Thought you would enjoy it. I would love to know of other plants which have not proved to be as beneficial or even found to be harmful contrary to what   was thought about it.
akbhatt
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 
 

Beware of Exotic Plants

 

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!

 

  ***                ***                  ***                  ***                  ***                  ***

 

        

chitra narayanan

unread,
May 12, 2008, 2:21:11 AM5/12/08
to Anand Kumar Bhatt, indiantreepix
Very interesting piece, Mr Bhatt.
 
However, re eucalyptus and impact on soil fertility, there seems to be huge conflict of opinion -- have been reading a lot of stuff lately about how the bad press that eucalyptus has got might be unjustified. here's a link --  http://bioenergy.ornl.gov/reports/euc-braz/eucal2a.html
 
And in Nilgiris, they do sell a lot of eucalyptus oil..
 
chitra

satish phadke

unread,
May 12, 2008, 3:32:50 AM5/12/08
to Anand Kumar Bhatt, indiantreepix
Thanks Anandji for writing this imporatant information.
I think every member of this group should understand the importance of native trees. One should not join the group only to view the beautiful pictures of the flowers but one must understand the information about these and ecological importance behind each of the tree.......
There are great associations of different living beings in nature in a habitat. Certain flowers or fruits are produced in nature for certain birds or animals in a particular habitat. There are associations between plants and butterflies e.g. capparidaceae family members are host plants for many butterfly larvae. Suppose these all are destroyed where will those buutterflies go to lay their eggs? If these butterflies disappear what will happen to the birds which feed on them. If that bird population decreases the predators feeding on these will also have to find something else.The whole chain is destroyed this way.
The plantation of exotic trees in large numbers may be one of the reasons of dwindling bird population.
Native birds and butterflies insects require native flowering trees for feeding and other uses. You can easily observe that though Gulmohor (Delonix regia) and Peltophorum which are planted in most places are good visual treat to human eyes........but no native bird generally goes to them for nectar because it is not from their habitat. Instesd one can observe a lot of native birds on flowers of native indian trees like Butea  Erythrina, and Bombax, etc. (Palas,Pangara,Sawar)
In an earlier mail a question was asked about planting rapidly growing trees...................
The above points must be kept in mind before planting any trees in our vicinity.
Oikos from Pune is doing some important work on native trees and they have come up with a list of common native trees on this group and they have introduced a CD also which is very good.

Satish
--
SATISFIED http://satishphadke.blogspot.com/

Tabish

unread,
May 12, 2008, 4:53:27 PM5/12/08
to indiantreepix
To start with, I should say that the title is misleading. Looking at
Gulmohar, which comes from Madagascar, who would say we should beware
of exotic plants?! A plant may be dangerous not because it is exotic,
but because it is invasive. A weed is a weed, whether indigenous or
exotic. Probably not many know that the revered Nagalingam tree
(Couroupita guianensis) comes from South America. All the Jacarandas
that we see come from there too. The famous Aloe Vera, which our
rural ladies have been using to rejuvinate their skin, comes from
Africa. The beautiful Nargis flower comes from Persia. I can probably
go on about it.
In countries like America there is so much study on how much a plant
is invasive. In India, probably not much thought is given to this
aspect. Water Hyacinth is considered a weed wherever it is present. Of
course in many countries they have taken care to control it. It is
even sold as ornamental plant in many places. Another example, Ipomea
carnea (which comes from America), is naturalized almost throughout
the world, but in lots of place it is not allowed to invade. Care
should be taken to control invasive plants. But the suggestion that
the plants mentioned in the article are bad because they come from
outside, is a simplistic view. Agreed, there have been some bad
experiments where some introduced species have displaced lot of
indigenous flora, but criticizing it now is like being wise after
seeing the result.
Lastly I would also say that spreading of certain species is also a
natural process. Here we are discussing plants which have (supposedly)
been introduced by humans. However, plants also "devise" clever
methods to propagate their seeds far and wide. There is a weed called
Devil's Claw, which probably came from China. The seeds have claws
which grip the legs of animals, and thus travel large distances. Now
this species has invaded the himalayan region. However, the ecology of
a place readjusts after a powerful new entrant arrives. This process
is natural. And the change need not always be bad for the region.
In my opinion, the title should have been, beware of invasive
plants.
Best wishes
- Tabish

On May 12, 10:54 am, "Anand Kumar Bhatt" <anandkbh...@gmail.com>
wrote:
> I wrote this quite sometime back. It was published in 'Femina' as well.
> Thought you would enjoy it. I would love to know of other plants which have
> not proved to be as beneficial or even found to be harmful contrary to
> what was thought about it.
> akbhatt
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
>
> *Beware of Exotic Plants*
>
> * *
>
> 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

Anand Kumar Bhatt

unread,
May 13, 2008, 8:26:26 AM5/13/08
to Tabish, indiantreepix
Tabish! I agree that all exotic plants are not bad. Chilly, tomato, potato,and even grapes are exotic. Sorghum (jowar) is not native to our country. What I wanted to say was that some plants have been thoughtlessly brought to this country, and they have not proved beneficial as was earlier thought. The first harmful plant I can think of is TOBACCO. but it has become endemic. On the other hand, it would have been brought to India in any case, whether in the shape of plants or otherwise. Human beings have a strange fascination for addictive and intoxicating.  
akbhatt

Tabish

unread,
May 13, 2008, 10:32:21 AM5/13/08
to indiantreepix
Anand, point taken!
- Tabish

On May 13, 5:26 pm, "Anand Kumar Bhatt" <anandkbh...@gmail.com> wrote:
> Tabish! I agree that all exotic plants are not bad. Chilly, tomato,
> potato,and even grapes are exotic. Sorghum (jowar) is not native to our
> country. What I wanted to say was that some plants have been thoughtlessly
> brought to this country, and they have not proved beneficial as was earlier
> thought. The first harmful plant I can think of is TOBACCO. but it has
> become endemic. On the other hand, it would have been brought to India in
> any case, whether in the shape of plants or otherwise. Human beings have a
> strange fascination for addictive and intoxicating.
> akbhatt
>
Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages