NSP - Prosopis

Prosopis - Spread and problems of Prosopis in several countries


Prosopis spp. (mesquite) are ever green leguminous trees or shrubs. The genus comprises 44 species of which 40 are natives to the Americas. Of the remaining species P. Africana is indigenous to Africa, whereas P. kodziana, P. farcta and P. cineraria are natives to the Middle East and Pakistan (Bukart, 1976).


Introduction of Prosopis juliflora, a native of Central America, in India could be traced first in literature from Lt. Col. R.H. Bendome, Conservator of Forests of Northern circle (Madras) requesting the Secretary of Revenue Department of Madras to supply Prosopis seed in 1876 for planting in arid tracts of South India (Reddy, 1978). Seeds were received from Jamaica and sown in South India during 1877. Reference to the occurrence of P. juliflora in this region was given 7 years after (Raizda and Chatterji, 1954). In Northern India, P. juliflora was introduced in the arid tracts of Rajasthan, owing to its rapid growth features and drought hardiness during 1877 (Muthana and Arora, 1983). Aerial seeding of this species to cover large areas was done at Marwar in Rajasthan during 1930s (Harsh et. al. 1996). The species was declared as a “Royal tree” and the Government officially instructed planting and protection of the tree species during 1940 (Muthana and Arora, 1983).

Among the species of Prosopis introduced, P. juliflora has spread over large areas and has naturalized in most of the arid and semi-arid regions of India. However the other native species of Prosopis cineraria (L) Druce and Prosopis farcta (Solunder ex Russel) Mac Bride are also recorded, though not frequently. Some of the exotic species tried in Research and Development institutions in the recent past include P. alba, P. chilensis, P. pallida, P. nigra, P. glandulosa, P. flexuosa and P. pubescens.The present communication is a summary of FAO publication on Prosopis, which is in preparation.

P. juliflora has evolved as a naturalized exotic species in large parts of arid and semi-arid India. Its wide ecological amplitude has contributed for its explosion in saline areas such as Rann of Kutch in Gujarath state as well as the sand dunes of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan (Saxena and Venkateswarlu, 1991). Initially, it was observed to occur in areas of 150-750 mm mean annual rainfall. However, invasions have been recorded in large rice growing stretches of Cauvery River Delta in Tamilnadu state with mean annual rainfall of 1500 mm and where the occurrence of floods and inundation are common.

Dispersal of the species is mainly through the animal aided seed dispersal by virtue of the process of endozoochory as the pods are succulent and are a preferred choice of food for animals. Further, use of stem as fuel wood by rural folk involves frequent lopping, upon which the root mass enlarges with rich food reserves, aiding rapid and robust regeneration. Invasion of pasturelands, protected forests, even water catchments reservoirs and arable lands by P. juliflora has alarmed agriculturalists and ecologists.

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