From being hailed as a godsend in the face of severe firewood shortage in the 1960s, seemai karuvelam has turned into a monster species that everybody loves to hate
Today, it is vilified as an invasive tree that causes enormous damage to the environment and inhibits the growth of indigenous plants in Tamil Nadu, India
(Spanish: bayahonda blanca, Cuji [Venezuela], Aippia [Wayuunaiki]) is a shrub or small tree in the family Fabaceae, a kind of mesquite. It is native to Mexico, South America and the Caribbean. It has become established as an invasive weed in Africa, Asia, Australia and elsewhere.
In 2004, it was rated one of the world’s top 100 least wanted species (Invasive Species Specialist Group of the IUCN, 2004)
Preferred food for fauna
Dispersal of the species is mainly through animals by endozoochory (dispersal via ingestion by vertebrate animals). The pods are succulent and are a preferred choice of food for animals.
The Jamaican connection
Though the plant gained popularity in the 1960s, seemai karuvelam actually arrived almost a century ago. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, Lt. Col. R.H. Bendome, Conservator of Forests of Northern circle (Madras), was responsible for its introduction. He had requested the Secretary of the Revenue department of Madras to supply seeds of the plant for planting in arid tracts of South India in 1876.
The seeds were received from Jamaica and sown in South India during 1877.