Deep in the weeds of India’s lantana problem

An ornamental plant introduced over 200 years ago is invading forests, displacing wildlife and endangering livelihoods. And that is just the beginning

Ten years before Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, a motley group of botanists had already unleashed monsters upon the world. Like Shelley, they were English, but unlike Shelley, they had no concerns about the repercussions of their science. They’d come to India in the late 1700s and set up the East India Company Botanical Garden in Calcutta, trading in plants with the same fervour their colonial friends traded in spices, opium, kingdoms and slaves. From the time the East India Company Botanical Garden was established, the botanists introduced 3,200 alien plant species. Many of these came from South and Central …


Roshni P. Nair

Roshni is a features writer and former editor of The Morning Context's Chaos team. Her career spans The Ken, Reuters, the Hindustan Times and DNA. She is a recipient of the UNFPA Laadli award and was shortlisted for the RedInk Awards 2016 for her story on Mumbai’s leprosy colonies. Her far-flung ideas would sometimes drive our editor-in-chief Ashish up the wall, but he wouldn’t have had it any other way (even if he didn’t admit it).