Dendrophthoe falcata: A Threat to MangoTrees on the Banaras Hindu University Main Campus, Varanasi (India) | TechGape

Dendrophthoe falcata: A Threat to MangoTrees on the Banaras Hindu University Main Campus, Varanasi (India)

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Dendrophthoe falcata has emerged as a major pest of mango trees growing on the Banaras Hindu University main campus.The severe infestation...

Dendrophthoe falcata has emerged as a major pest of mango trees growing on the Banaras Hindu University main campus.The severe infestation of this parasite not only leads to death of branches but also weaken the mango trees consequently they become vulnerable to other pests and pathogens ultimately leading to their death.
Dendrophthoe falcata
Dendrophthoe falcata parasitizing on mango tree (in front of School of Biomedical Engineering) near Swatantrata Bhavan on Banaras Hindu University main campus

Dendrophthoe falcata
A Threat to Mango Trees on the Banaras Hindu University Main Campus, Varanasi (India)

-Dr. Arvind Singh

Dendrophthoe falcata (Indian Mistletoe) syn. Loranthus longiflorusis a large bushy evergreen parasitic plant generally found growing on the branches of host plants. It belongs to the Loranthaceae family of the flowering plants and is native to Asia, Africa and Australia. Dendrophthoe falcata has a wide range of host andis known to parasitize on 401 woody plant species. It is a partial stem parasite which depends on the host forwater and minerals. Dendrophthoe falcata is distributed more or less throughout India, ascending to 3,000 ft. in the Western Himalaya. The plant is called as 'Banjha' in Hindi while ‘Vrikshabhaksha’ (meaning plant eater) in Sanskrit.

Dendrophthoe falcata is a glabrous shrub with green leaves. The plant lacks root system. The stem is thick, erect and flattened at nodes and appears to arise in clusters at the point of attack. This cluster forms a dense and bushy growth which can easily be spotted on the host trees. The point at which the host is attacked and where haustorium penetrates, often swells to form tumours which differ in size according to age of the parasite. The plant produces long tubular flowers which are whitish yellow, red, orange-red or yellowish red and sometimes pink in colour. Pollination and seed dispersal is usually accomplished by the birds that thrive on fruits from the parasite and/or host. The sticky and viscous pulp of the berries play important role in dispersal of the seeds.

Dendrophthoe falcata is a medicinally important plant species. The plant is useful in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis, asthma, menstrual disorders, constipation, insanity, diarrhoea, dysentery, arthritis, leucorrhoea, rheumatism, skin diseases, impotency, wound swelling, paralysis, ulcers, haemorrhage, miscarriage, kidney and gall bladder stone. Dendrophthoe falcata parasitizingon Ficus fistula is used for foetus development in Ayurvedic system of disease treatment.

The great seat of learning Banaras Hindu University is the largest teaching and residential university of Asia born in 1916, during the Indian freedom movement as a national university with donation from both the rich and the poor. It was founded by great freedom fighter and social reformer Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya(1861-1946) who was also addressed as ‘Mahamana’. Recently on March 30, 2015 Malaviya was conferred (posthumously) the India’s highest civilian award- The Bharat Ratna, for his outstanding contribution in the field of education, social work, journalism, politics and Indian independence struggle. The foundation stone of the Banaras Hindu University was laid by Lord Hardinge on 4 February 1916, the then Viceroy and Governor General of colonial India.

The main university campus spreads over 1,350 acres of land area encompassed by a wall all around it. The campus is located about 5 km south of Varanasi city on the western bank of the Ganges River. The soil is of alluvial type (formed by the deposition of sediments of river Ganges), which is fertile and sandy loam in texture. About a century old main campus of Banaras Hindu University provides dense flora.

The vast university campus hosts large number of mango trees of different varieties planted along roadsides, in compounds of residences, departments and hostels, and in open fields. Mango is one of the most common tree species of the university campus.

However, Dendrophthoe falcata has emerged as a major pest of mango (Mangifera indica) trees growing on the Banaras Hindu University main campus. Presently almost all older mango trees on university campus are infested from this hemi-parasite.

Dendrophthoe falcata get attached to the host branches by means of haustoria which serves as absorbing organs. This in turn feeds on the host and leads to death of branches. Many mango trees have been found dead due to infestation of Dendrophthoe falcata on the university campus. The severe infestation of this angiospermic parasite not only leads to death of branches but also weaken the mango trees consequently they become vulnerable to other pests and pathogens ultimately leading to their death.

Besides mango, several other tree specieson the Banaras Hindu University main campus are also parasitized by this stem parasite. These include Teak (Tectona grandis) , Guava (Psidium guajava), Tree of Sorrow (Nyctanthes arbor-tristis) , Pomegranate (Punica granatum) , Bottle Brush (Callistemon lanceolatus), Jambolana (Syzygium cumini) and Sugar Apple (Annona squamosa). However, the frequency of infestation of this parasite is low on these tree species compared to mango.

Since Dendrophthoe falcata has a wide host range, hence in future it can invade and parasitize other tree species of the university campus. Its several reported hosts like Lebbeck (Albizia lebbeck), Margosa Tree (Azadirachta indica), Indian Butter Tree (Madhuca longifolia) , Sissoo (Dalbergia sissoo), Indian Fig (Ficusbenghalensis), Red Cotton (Bombax ceiba) etc. are found growing on the Banaras Hindu University main campus.

The escalating menace of Dendrophthoe falcata on the protected main campus of Banaras Hindu University is a matter of serious concern and needs immediate attention to control this stem parasite for the protection of the mango trees and other woody plants of horticultural importance of the Banaras Hindu University main campus.
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Dr. Arvind Singh is M. Sc. and Ph. D. in Botany with area of specialization in Ecology. He is a dedicated Researcher having more than four dozens of published research papers in the journals of national and international repute. His main area of research is Restoration of Mined Lands. However, he has also conducted research on the Vascular Flora of Banaras Hindu University Main Campus, Varanasi (India). Furthermore, he is also an active science writer having more than 10 dozens of published science articles in different periodicals of national repute. His email address is: keywords:

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TechGape: Dendrophthoe falcata: A Threat to MangoTrees on the Banaras Hindu University Main Campus, Varanasi (India)
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