As we approach the end of a truly awful year, it’s time to announce the Anilodharani Award for the Weed of the Year. We’re sticking to the plant kingdom, otherwise you know who it would have to be!
So, this year the selectors have chosen a candidate who is (hopefully) vanishing from our farm. We’ve been skirmishing with it for more than a year now, so there are no longer impenetrable thickets of it all over the place. Though many single plants do keep popping up here and there. Meanwhile, serried ranks of it lurk just outside our boundary, scattering seeds and sticking in a toe here, a limb there.
And wouldn’t you know it, just as we’re succeeding in checking its spread, we find it’s not such a useless weed after all. It takes a lot of doing, but apparently it can be made into beautiful furniture and works of art.
Yes, you guessed right! We are talking about lantana camara! That there sneaky scratchy smelly lowdown pig-harbouring fire-relaying mesoamerican shrub, whose flowers are so cunningly pretty and whose sticky black berries have cheered us on many a hungry walk.
There’s some really brilliant work on lantana being done by various NGOs and tribals. Whoever thought of making cane furniture out of it deserves a Nobel prize! Lantana has been taking over our forests for decades, squeezing out native species and reducing food sources for all kinds of animals from elephants to deer to birds. This indirectly affects predators like the tiger as well. Now the lantana can provide livelihoods to the hard-pressed tribals, in the process restoring habitats and saving trees. The Lantana Collective is one of the organisations working in this area. And if you missed all the excitement about Buckingham Palace and the stunningly beautiful, life-size lantana elephants, look them up here and here.
Wishing you all a happy, healthy year ahead! May you flourish like a weed!