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Saturday, July 18, 2009

PARTHENIUM : The Congress Grass

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Parthenium is a weed which is botanically known as Parthenium hysterophorous. It is native to Tropical America. It was accidently introduced in India in the year 1956. Parthenium is an annual herb which is locally known as Congress Grass or the Gajjar grass.

Plants of Parthenium have deep tap root system and multibranched erect shoot system. Stems become woody on maturity. Leaves are deeply lobed, pale green in colour, and hairy. Flowers of Parthenium are creamy white in colour. They produce small and black coloured seeds with white scales that are hardly visible.

Parthenium has been declared as noxious in India, America, Australia, and in many other countries. Seeds germinate in spring to summer and the plants die around autumn. Parthenium plants can however grow during any time of the year, and anywhere on the land including places around water points if conditions are suitable for their growth and development. Flowering of plants continues till their death. This plant is a prolific producer of seeds and can produce up to one lac seeds per plant. In India Parthenium Plants can be seen any where and every where.

Problems Associated with Parthenium

Parthenium is a vigorous species which colonizes in bare land, roadsides, crop fields, and in places around water bodies. It reduces production of crops and pastures, and it is very difficult to control the weed. The plant is a major health hazard to animals and human beings and even to other plants as well. Pollens of these plants cause asthma to the exposed person and causes dermatitis on contact. It reduces the yield of milk and weight of grazers; and causes severe diseases in rabbits. Seeds and plant-litter leach out toxins that inhibit the germination of seeds of plants of other species. Some of the serious diseases caused due to Parthenium are contact dermatitis, Eczema, Eczematous dermatitis, allergic reactions, fewer in cows, hypersensitivity in rabbits( like restlessness, natural falling of hair from the dorsal region of the neck and back, small boils etc.), ulcerations in buffaloes, horses, donkeys, sheep, and goats.

Scientific investigations have found that pollens of Parthenium contain Sesquiterpene lactones, Caffeic acids, vanillic acids, Anisic acids, Chlorogenic acids, Para hydroxyl benzoic acids (all Phenolic acids) that are severely lethal to human beings and cattle. Parthenin is the basic toxic substance extracted out and studied by our scientists. The Chemical Formula of Parthenin is C15H18O4.

Parthenium is hard to control due to its highly invasive and competitive nature. How ever hand hoeing, growing a smother crop, applying herbicides like 2-4 D etc. has been found helpful in controlling this weed. People across the world are uniting together to control the spread of Parthenium. However a group of scientists is researching the biochemistry of the weed in order to investigate any possible positive side of the plant.

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