The Conocarpus ‘threat’: rumor or reality
Buttonwood or Conocarpus erectus is a widespread species of terrestrial mangrove along tropical and subtropical coasts of the Americas and West Africa.
It grows as a shrub or small tree on the coastal mainland and on islands of a variety of sizes. It has two varieties “silver” and “green”, having highly pubescent and nearly glabrous leaves, respectively.
This species is widely distributed in coastal communities in tropical America and West Africa. It can be found throughout Florida and to the Bahamas and West Indies south to Brazil. In the Eastern Pacific, it is present in Mexico through Central America to Ecuador and the Galapagos.
It is also found in West Africa. It was introduced in Hawaii, Kuwait, Dubai and Saudi Arabia.
In Pakistanm it was first introduced by the former mayor of Karachi Syed Mustafa Kamal who planted around 2.2 million Conocarpus plants almost everywhere in Karachi. This dramatically transformed the city’s landscape and provided a thick shadow to the humans and animals.
The plant also helped in reducing carbon imprint by absorbing city’s ever increasing CO2 and producing the oxygen.
In addition,It gave another life to the desert looking parks and concrete jungles. Because of its tendency to grow in harsh soil with presence of saline ground waters, this plant has become the most favorite tree of this city.
When it was first imported to Karachi the price was around Rs.15000-25000/plant, however when local nurseries started planting them due to huge demand from the citizens and the government, prices were decreased to Rs.15-25/plant.
As I already mentioned that this is a tropical plant,which belongs to the mangrove family, Karachi’s soil provided this plant a favorable environment to grow and flourish here.
It’s physiology is not much different from our local trees like Neem, Ficus, Lignum, Flamboyant, Moringa, Eucalyptus, Amaltas, Imlee and so on.
It is continuously purifying Karachi’s air pollution for years and reducing the salinity of ground waters as well.
In the western world, this tree also has economic value for its hard wood which is used in making furniture, charcoal manufacturing and medicinal uses.
Since, few days there are rumors about this innocent tree, that it is causing allergy and asthma in Karachi’s population.
Even on a private news channel, reporter has made a foolish report regarding Conocorpus.
A research study published by University of Karachi and The Aga Khan University in 2015, the Conocorpus was not even in the list of allergy causing plants.
Another Research from University of Lahore, has reported that this tree has both antibacterial as well as antifungal properties.
Even if you search “top 100 allergic plant in the world” on the Google, surprisingly Conocorpus is not there!
The Globally recognized American research organization “National Center for Biotechnology Information which is authority for “ANY NEW MEDICAL DEVELOPMENT/RESEARCH” does not have any evidence for allergy caused by the Conocorpus.
“Till now there is no such case reported for its harmful effect in Human as well as animals from anywhere in the world.”
Instead of removing Conocorpus, Karachi needs another 2.2 million trees of othernative varieties in its soil. Karachi’s climate favors majority of plants than any other city of Pakistan because of its soft sandy soil, moderate weather and high humidity levels.
The paid “Timber Mafia” hasnow eyes on the2.2million Conocorpus trees for its precious wood preciousand want to fill their every bottomless pocket like they did with Karachi’s GiantEucalyptus trees.
It’s time to re-think about this tree because every rumor is not TRUE…!