Lantana Camara infestation in India mounts to near Kuwait geographical area and South Sudan

Lantana Camara infestation is spreading like fire in Indian forest as it now covered
near the geographical area of Kuwait  and almost to South Sudan in Himachal Pradesh.

State of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu. Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra are being occupied by
this wild invasive shrub along with 26 states in the country and area under its invasion in some areas
state are more than many countries in the world today.  

This invasive species is not only confined to the state forest of Himachal Pradesh however FSI stated its
ISFR-2019 it was found in states and union territory and it has been spreaded  in 17511 sq km area .

Lantana is found in 4416 sq km area in Madhya Pradesh 2863 sq km in Karnataka, 2209 sq km in
Tamil Nadu, 1332 sq km area of Chhattisgarh,  1185 sq km area in Maharashtra, 798 sq km in UP,
665 sq km in Jharkhand, 654 sq km in HP, 652 sq km in Punjab, 605 sq km in Uttarakhand, respectively.

Report found 518 sq km area in Andhra pradesh under Lantana, 490 sq km in Bihar, 339 sqkm in
Assam, 259 sq km in Telangana,  236 sq km in Odisha , 210 sq km in Rajasthan, 185 sq km in Kerala,
 139 sq km in Gujarat, 132 sq km in Jammu and Kashmir,  107 sq km  in Arunachal Pradesh,  
78 sq km in Chhattisgarh Harayana,  47 sq km in West Bengal, 39 sq km in Meghalaya, three sq km in
Tripura, 2.55 sq km  in Chandigarh,  One Sq km in Sikkim and 0.72 sqkm in state of Delhi,

The Geographical area equal to South Sudden or around size of Maldives is infested by Lantana Camara an
invasive shrubs spreading like forest fire in fallow, forest and pasture land in the State.

Talking to UNI Regional Incharge of Indian Forest Survey of India Mr Satya Prakash Negi said that
till 2017 IFSI did not conduct any survey of invasive species and it was 2019 when Forest Survey of India 2019
report extended its mandate .

Indian State of Forest Report 2019 defines Invasive Species which  not native to specific location either introduced species has tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment , human economy and human health.

The report found that around 654 square kilometer Restricted Foerst Aare ( RFA) or Geen Wash in Himachal
Pradesh is about the size of South Sudan and slightly less than Maldives is invested by the Lantana Camara top
among five invasive and exotic plant species speeding naturally in the forest, fallow and pasture land in low elevation.

Four others invasive species traced by the ISFR-2019 is Ageratina Adenophora ( 39 sq km) Ageratum Conyzoides (36 Sqkm)
Melochia Corchorifolia (30sq km) and Dioscorea Deltoidea (30) sq km and Dioscorea Deltoidea (29( sqkm.

The data of IFSI 2017 are not available about these invasive species as FSI started conducting enumeration
such wanted species since after 2017 onward , Mr SP Neg informed.

Scrub which is defined by the FSI degraded forest land having canopy density of less than ten percent. However Mr
SP Negi said that Invasive species which have to be Alien Species are not covered in the scrub forest area.

On the basis of  tree green cover and density FSI divides forest into four type which include Scrub , Open forest(OF)
Medium Density forest(MDF) and Very high density forest(VDF).  Forest was classified as VDF forest if its tree
cover is above 70 to 100 pc if it is 40 to 70 pc it is called MDF and if its density is between 10 to 40 it is called the open forest and if it is less than ten percent forest areas are called the scrubs.

ISFR -2019 report states that out of total  55673 sq km geographical area of state there are about
15,433. 52 sq km area(27.72 per cent) under forest which included 3112.71 sq km VDF, 7125.93 sq km -MDF
 5,194.88 sq km Open Forest  and 315.28 scrubs.  

However in terms of size of geographical area 37,033 Sq m (66.52 pc ) area is recorded as forest land which further
divided into 6506 Sq Km forests are Tropical and  Sub-Tropical Forest.  

Mr Negi said that tropical & subtropical forests are facing biological invasions by Lantana Camara one of the anthropogenically mediated ecological perturbations – are threatening native biodiversity, preventing natural ecological succession and changing the community structure  and composition, besides impacting ecosystem services

A report published by the state Forest department said that lantana camara is perhaps one of the most
important invasive alien plant species (exotic weed) in forest ecosystems of India as also in Himachal Pradesh.

According to the forest department  around 2600 sq. km of area under forest cover lies in the lower elevation
(upto 1000m) out of which about 60 percent is infested with Lantana to varying extent.

Infestation is rapidly spreading and has been noticed in elevations upto 1500m. The districts of Kangra,
Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Solan, Sirmour, Chamba and Mandi have been heavily infested, while Shimla has
been marginally affected.

HP Forest Department had  also carried out a reconnaissance survey to map the infestation in various
Divisions and Circles during January- March 2001.  

According to this reconnaissance survey, approximately 1563 Sq KM forest land is infested with Lantana
camara. Apart from this 20 Sq Km road side and 250 Sq. Km barren land (Culturable waste and Fellow land)
is also infested by Lantana camara.

Former IFS officer Dr Kuldeep Singh Tanwar said that beside the weed invasion is being made by the Lantana
in the pastures, barren and unculturable wastelands in many district of Himachal including Solan, Shimla
Sirmaur , Una and Bilaspur district.

Commonly called  Phullakari or Phulnu’ or ‘Panchphulli’, Lantana camara is probably native to South America
which was  introduced in India for ornamental purposes during the Colonial rule. At present was spreading like wildfire
gutting the quality forest areas baking suitable habitats for the wild boar and other wild animals causing damage
to the farmer corps.

The State Forest Department on its website stated that Lantana weed is a perennial spreading shrub belonging
to the Verbenaceae family.  The plant is in active vegetative growth during March to August (monsoon) and produces flowers
and fruits during June to October. It is mostly dormant during November to February.

The weed has a strong horizontal root system spreading under the surface and moderately deep i.e. 25-30
cm in the soil. The leaves are thick and contain lantandens-A, a toxic substance for cattle. This clever plant stores
its food material in roots and crown and is a exceedingly strong coppicer. Its main coppice strength lies in the ‘collar’
 portion. It coppices from stem and branches. Besides, it also spreads through seeds and air layering, but does
not spread through root suckers.

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