Status, invasiveness and environmental threats of three tropical American invasive weeds (Parthenium hysterophorus L., Ageratum conyzoides L., Lantana camara L.) in India
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Invasive weeds have threatened the integrity of ecosystems throughout the world. They affect not only the species diversity of native areas but also their biological integrity. In India, a number of invasive exotic weeds have been reported but some viz. Parthenium hysterophorus, Lantana camara and Ageratum conyzoides, especially those from tropical America are troublesome and have caused adverse ecological, economic and social impact. These weeds can be seen growing in different landscapes but are luxuriantly localized in unattended forests and cultivated areas. Parthenium hysterophorus (Asteraceae, commonly known as congress grass) is perhaps the most troublesome and noxious weed of urban and rural India. Besides rapidly colonizing areas replacing the native vegetation, it is also known to cause a number of human health problems such as skin allergy, rhinitis and irritation to eyes of the residents in the vicinity. Likewise, it causes fodder scarcity in addition to being unpalatable and toxic to livestock. Lantana camara (Verbenaceae), another serious tropical American pest, has encroached upon large areas of land, especially the forests where it has virtually replaced the forest floor vegetation and reduced tree growth. Also because of its bushy and spreading type of growth it obstructs forest operations. The third weed, Ageratum conyzoides (Asteraceae, Billy goat weed) has invaded agricultural fields. It interferes with crops and causes yield reductions of major staple crops of India. When it invades rangeland areas, it out competes native grasses causing scarcity of fodder. These weeds have similar growth strategies such as fast growth rates, short life-cycles, greater reproductive potential, high competitive abilities and allelopathy that make them successful invaders of native habitats. Mechanical, chemical, biological and cultural control tactics have failed individually, though integrated approaches combining all these approaches along with community participation and proper land management have been relatively successful. This paper presents various aspects of biology, ecology, hazards and control measures of these weeds.
KeywordsAgeratum conyzoides allelopathy invasive weeds Lantana camara Parthenium hysterophorus tropical America
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