Alien plants strangle local ones

Around 3,000 sq km forest range in Wayanad faces threat

September 07, 2015 12:00 am | Updated 08:33 am IST - KALPETTA:

Foreign rule:Mikenia micarantha and (right) Senna spectabilis, invasive plants which pose serious threat to the forest areas in Wayanad.

Foreign rule:Mikenia micarantha and (right) Senna spectabilis, invasive plants which pose serious threat to the forest areas in Wayanad.

The rampant growth of invasive alien plants is a concern for the wildlife managers in the district. “The spread of invasive plants, especially Senna spectabilis , is posing a major threat to the forest areas of the district, due to its quick growth and coppicing character,” says S. Mohanan Pillai, wildlife warden, WSS.

Eradicating the plant is a herculean task, says S. Heera Lal, assistant wildlife warden. The forest personnel had tried to eradicate the plant adjacent to the forest office at Muthanga as per the guidelines of the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, last year, but many a tree sprouted from its roots this year.

An adult tree grows up to 15 to 20 metres in a short period of time and every year distributes lakhs of seeds after the gregarious flowering. The thick foliage arrests the growth of other indigenous species of trees and grass, and causes food shortage for the wildlife population, especially herbivores, during summer. “This may worsen the man-animal conflict in the district,” said North Wayanad Forest Divisional officer Narendranath Veluri.

A survey conducted by the Wildlife Trust of India and the Forest Department last year revealed that the plant was a major presence in the Muthanga, Sulthan Bathery and Tholpetty range of forests under the sanctuary. “On a 3,000 sq km-stretch of the region, including the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, North and South Wayanad forest divisions and the adjacent Muthumalai, Bandipur and Nagarhole tiger reserves, wild growth of invasive plants has been reported,” Mr. Narendranath said. Plants such as Mikenia micarantha , Lantana, Eupatorium and Parthenium were also spreading in the region. The wild growth of Mikenia vine on dried bamboo pods would adversely affect the regeneration of bamboo seedlings in the region, he added.

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