“Suddha” is a silence destroyer of the Knuckles Mountain range in Sri Lanka

by Lalith Gunasekera

Family: Asteraceae
Botanical name: Austroeupatorium Inulifolium
Common name: suddha

(December 22, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) This plant has not come to an attention in the past in Sri Lanka but thanks to recent investigations conducted by the researchers from the Faculty of Science at University of Peradeniya. They found that the species is very invasive in knuckles mountain ranges in the central part of Sri Lanka and have been continuing some invaestigations on this species.

Knuckles mountain range declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO at the world heritage conference in Brazil in 31 July 2010. Now time has come to do some investigations on this plant in Sri Lanka. My recent visit to Sri Lanka found the species already established central mountain regions such as in Kandy, Gampola, Ginigathena, Bulathkohupitiya, Dedugala and Nawalapitiya areas.

Austroeupatorium Inulifolium is similar appearance to podisinghomaran or siam weed (Chromolaena odorata) and belongs to the same plant family asteraceae but grows at higher elevations. It is a neotropical plant widely distributed in its native South America from Panama, Colombia, Peru, Brazil to Argentina.

Austroeupatorium is a perennial, spreading scrambling shrub grows up to 2-5 m tall. Stems covered with dense short hairs and moderately branched. Leaves are simple and opposite below becoming sub-opposite or alternate above. Leaf petiole is 1-2 cm long, leaf blades are ovate to narrowly oblong, 7 -14 cm long, 2.5 - 8 cm wide, acuminate at apex, margins are serrate, 3 veined starting from well above base, hairy, pale green beneath. Flowers are terminal or arising from upper nodes. Floral heads are 2-3 mm diameter, 5-6 mm long. Each head comprising 3-4 series of involucral bracts enclosing 10-15 creamy white florets with corollas 4-5 mm long, flowers fragrant. Seeds (achenes) oblong, angular, 1.5 mm long with a whitish pappus 4 mm long. Seeds are spread by wind, water, via animals humans and vehicles.

Austroeupatorium is an aggressive species that rapidly colonizes areas cleared for planting new crops, agricultural fields, fallow fields, waste lands and roadsides, natural forests, grasslands, riparian zones, wetlands. It is listed as an “agricultural” and “environmental weed” in the Global Compendium of Weeds. It is a serious weed in the Philippines where it forms very dense thickets in rubber, tea and rosella plantations, upland rice plantations and clearings in secondary forest.

The Dutch introduced it to Western Sumatra to smother illuk in rubber plantations. In 1935, local farmers began to plant A. inufolium cuttings in illuk on their farms for 3- 4 year fallows. Compared to illuk A. inufolium provides much more organic materials and readily available N and P to the next crop.

Keep an eye on this plant in the country. If it hasn’t distributed around the country, it is better to include it under the “invasive plants list” in Sri Lanka and eradicate the plant from small areas. Eradication is achievable in their early stages of the colony.

Even though this plant is sweeping and marching along through central mountains in Sri Lanka adversely affecting biodiversity and ecosystems process of unique environment specially in knuckles, the plant is yet to be identified as an invasive in the country by relevant authorities,

( Dr. Lalith Gunasekera, Invasive Plants Specialist who lives in Melbourne, Victoria Australia)

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