The Conocarpus

Hello to everyone in the Metblogs world. 

I have just joined the Metblogging team for Karachi, so would like to present a short introduction before I go on with my post. I was born in Karachi,  left it when I was 18 to go abroad, lived little more than half a decade abroad, and am now proudly calling myself a Karachiite again. I am an engineer by profession, however I have an avid interest in the city. Especially in its architecture. You can see a website I made at which showcases the heritage of our city. Since this is my first post on metblogs, I would like to start on a somewhat lighthearted note. Lets talk about the Conocarpus. 

More specifically, the Conocarpus Erectus — a tree that has taken over Karachi like a storm! A tree? well yes. Karachi’s climate is rather hot and dry. It does not rain here much and there is not a lot of vegetation that can survive here easily without much help and still look fresh and green. Not the Conocarpus! This is one tree that has made its presence felt in the city over the last two years. You can see it everywhere now… especially greening the areas around Shahrah-e-Faisal and Karsaz. But also in many different areas. Bin Qasim Park, Beach Park, Khayaban-e-Hafiz in DHA, University Road near Askari Park, etc. etc. Not sure how it got here, but most probably the CDGK had some part to play in introducing this species to Karachi. And some of us can be pretty resistant to such new stuff… I heard a rumor going around recently that this tree causes diseases :-O  Nope. Nothing can be further from the truth. Maybe we should spend a minute and understand it more…

Conocarpus on the Karachi waterfront

Conocarpus on the Karachi waterfront

Conocarpus Erectus is not really a tree, but a rather large woody shrub growing up to 40 feet tall. It originates in North America from the edges of swamplands in Florida, which is why it has often times been confused to be a mangrove. It is not a mangrove though, but is a very hardy plant that can survive the hot weather, bad air, bad soils and frequent droughts associated with urban environments very well. Its leaves are very thick and leathery which help it retain its health in the heat, and the plant also grows very well in saline soils. In fact, its salt tolerance is so good that it has been used for the reclaimation of salinity damaged lands. All these qualities make it an ideal plant for Karachi.

Conocarpus has also been used in other regions of the world. This tree-like shrub can be trimmed in a lot of ways and is often used for road-side medians, parking lots, screening hedges, and other landscaping purposes. Kuwait is one country that has made extensive use of the Conocarpus for its landscaping. Another is Hawaii, where it is so prevalent now that it has become naturalized. 

In Karachi you can find the Conocarpus in a lot of areas. Particularly in DHA, the soil is naturally very saline (since most of it is reclaimed land) and Conocarpus thrives in DHA much better than any other trees. It has been used to particularly good effect on Khayaban-e-Hafiz where a lot of people have used it to screen their houses from the road. It has also been put to good use on roadside medians on Shahrah-e-Faisal and in the Karsaz area. On the water-front road now, the CDGK has planted lots of saplings where it should be able to grow very well. In fact, it may be a very good idea to plant it all over our beachside. That would make it look very attractive. 

Conocarpus grove in front of Dolmen City

Conocarpus grove in front of Dolmen City

If you are a greenery fan, I would suggest that you should introduce yourself and your neighbourhood to the Conocarpus. Make sure that you keep individual trees at least 5 feet apart so that they do not smother each other. Some watering may be helpful in order to help the plant take hold, but otherwise, it should do pretty well on its own. Here’s to a greener Karachi!


28 Comments so far

  1. calyps on May 21st, 2009 @ 12:11 am

    @SwERveUT thank you for such a valuable blog. However, when i googled it more, i came up with this article:

    The City District Government Karachi (CDGK) is liberally planting a toxic mangrove plant, Conocarpus Erectus, which contains compounds that are hazardous to health and can cause damage to the environment of the city, The News has learnt.


    Do you know anything more about it?

  2. SwERveUT (swerveut) on May 21st, 2009 @ 12:22 am

    Hello Calyps, this is the rumor-mongering I was talking about. People here can make bogus ill-founded rumors to go against everything. Something that is very much required is proper research. Pollen allergies can be caused by just about any plant with flowers. Conocarpus is no special contender for causing allergies. Karachi is not the only arid city in the world that is using it for landscaping. A variety of Conocarpus is even used as an ornamental plant. I have five of these trees growing in front of my house and no one in my neighbourhood has ever complained of any allergies. To repeat, there are NO TOXINS in this plant, and it causes no allergies in normal people (unless you are highly susceptible to pollen allergies – in which case you should stay away from most flowering plants). Take a look at a fact sheet for this plant here: Cheers!

  3. SwERveUT (swerveut) on May 21st, 2009 @ 12:34 am

    Some more refutations: There is no toxin in this plant that would cause other plants to die out. I have a whole yard thriving with other plants growing right under the Conocarpus trees and around them. This plant may not be native, but it is a non-invasive species. In any case, Karachi is much too dry for any aggressive plant to take hold and destroy all other local vegetation.

    Earlier the city authorities had planted Eucalyptus trees all over the city. These trees posed a significant litter problem owing to their peeling bark and extensive leaf shedding. Also, the aggressive Eucalyptus roots would rupture and choke sewerage systems. This is why the CDGK undertook a campaign to remove all Eucalyptus trees from the city. Conocarpus on the other hand is a clean growing tree which poses no such problems (please refer to the fact sheet

    I would appreciate if other readers will inform their fellows about the falsehood of such rumors. Save the Green Karachi campaign!

  4. balma on May 21st, 2009 @ 12:58 am

    Ok, great post.

    How about neem and peepal trees. Sorry, I don’t know their English names and therefore burgers may not know what i am talking about.
    I used to see lots of neem trees in Karachi when I was a kid (not too long ago!) but now I don’t see it anywhere. Any reason?

  5. SwERveUT (swerveut) on May 21st, 2009 @ 1:21 am

    Neem tree is Azadirachta Indica (name derives from Greco-Persian – Azad Darakht of India). No doubt it is a great native tree with lots of beneficial properties. However it is very slow growing and reaches massive size with age (and looks very graceful too). It is more suitable for large spaces and parks where it can be used for providing large shaded spaces. Good example of neem plantation can be seen in front of Aga Khan hospital.

    Peepul is the famous Banyan tree. Banyans are sacred trees for Buddists since Buddha spent a long time in meditation under one such tree. That is why they are also known as Bodhi trees. Peepul is not a very graceful tree for a modern urban environment because it produces aerial roots that drop down from the tree and look unsightly. There were lots of Peepul/Bodhi trees planted in the city by the British, especially in the Clifton, Frere Hall areas. Understandably so, now they are not popular any more.

  6. calyps on May 21st, 2009 @ 1:47 am

    SwERveUT: Thanks. Btw, do you have relevant educational background?

  7. darkknight on May 21st, 2009 @ 7:28 am

    Nice post dude. We need Greener Karachi.

  8. بستنی (wasiq) on May 21st, 2009 @ 8:39 am

    18 + 6.34+ 1.23=under 30 ok!
    subha subha daraa diya….anyways….iam not aware of the botanical or medicinal side of these trees….I am watching and enjoying the efforts of the people involved in this project… you can see its a sea side the wind blows faster here and the stem of this tree is not widenning….the foliage (leafs) grows which is cut down regularly….at this pace i believe these trees will take a little more time to become a tree and be able to withstand the stormy breeze of the sea view and cresent bay…..but then who is in a hurry…take your time….

    the building took more time to complete and I am sure prize winning architects did not have a neighboring structure blocking the view in mind … it can never be like Dubai…..sorry!

  9. Shamsi (shamsi) on May 21st, 2009 @ 10:10 am

    Thank you – KMB started to make sense since little while.

    I have planted the same [Conocarpus Erectus] trees in wide big pots with pure idea to cast an hedge saving us from our across the street neighbors while we are having chit chat on rooftop. – in 3+ months (approx close to 10 weeks now) all are grown from 18inch tall 3 inches in dia sapling to 30inch Shrub with dia of approx 48 inches .. 5 pots have been distanced approx 3 feet apart at time of planting now 3 are serving our purpose.

    Honestly speaking I had no idea for the name of tree i went to CDGK Nursery asked them to give me 5 plants which they are planting on central median of roads n they gave me in plastic bag free of charge, saying It is called – GHUCHA JHAAR, –

    Thank you again for the post and telling us the name of Tree

  10. Tariq Khanani (tariqkhanani) on May 21st, 2009 @ 10:14 am

    Finally a relevant and well crafted post with some new information. Good post

  11. cyberizen on May 21st, 2009 @ 2:23 pm

    SwERveUT from Skyscrapercity forums right? Nice to see you here :)

  12. fasee on May 21st, 2009 @ 2:30 pm

    @ all

    My 2 cents.

    We shud plant productive plants, like veggie gardens or tress which be of medicinal use, like neem peelo etc for dual purposes, or fruit trees, as in half my lawn I had veggies, for fresh vegies for home, and give away the rewst to massi and guards.

    It will also lessen the burden on food supply.

    On the bottom space, herbs can be grown, to maximise utility.

    Like I place parsley, podina, dhaniya etc at bottom of plants for double outputs with goos use of fertilizers

  13. sburney on May 21st, 2009 @ 4:38 pm

    It’s amazing how people in Pakistan love to spread rumours against any new initiatives that anyone takes. I have heard a lot of bad things about Conocarpus – however I spent a few minutes on the internet and realized that they had absolutely no foundation.

    I found the following especially annoying:

    But Dr Muhammad Qaiser, Vice Chancellor of the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (FUUAST) said the mangrove tree in question is not a native plant and is unsuitable for cities like Karachi.

    “There are reports that it causes allergies,” he said, adding that no research was being done on it in the city’s universities. Plants such as the Conocarpus Erectus should have been kept in quarantine and studied thoroughly before their cultivation,” he suggested.

    Basically you can’t do anything – there is always someone who knows nothing who will stand up against you.

  14. fasee on May 21st, 2009 @ 5:32 pm

    @ shamsi

    I can’t stop laughing….FAUST…..what next……VC of newport would object nobody asked me before planting these….lol

    Sali do kamron ki do do takkay ki universities…..apna masters programe dhang say chalta nai…..dosron per ungliyan uthatay hain

  15. بستنی (wasiq) on May 21st, 2009 @ 5:43 pm

    @fasee sab….parsley, podina, dhaniya

    lol….the morning walks along the beach would be so…..aromatic!and healthy as well….good Idea….

  16. darkknight on May 21st, 2009 @ 5:56 pm

    Speaking of rumors, I just remember a rumor about the Iodized salt. When the Iodized salt project started back in 1990, it was the sister project of Green Star (sabz sitaara) family planning. People started the rumor that they found family planning pills mixed in the iodized salt. LMAO I still think we are the kings of Rumor. I still admire the guy who found the donkey meat in Delhi Javed’s Nihari.

  17. SwERveUT (swerveut) on May 21st, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

    @ Calyps — I studied till O’level biology, and the rest is just good knowledge from excellent referencing skills. This is called the age of knowledge because you can find everything on the internet. Plants that have potential for toxicity are usually indicated very strongly on one website or another. Especially, in the US this plant is also used for landscaping purposes, and the Americans have one of the strictest laws about giving information about such issues.

    @ Cyberizen — yes you got that right. I am also a participant on the skyscrapercity forums. Good site there. Good to know there are others here from the forum too.

    @ Sburney — Dr. Qaiser needs to be told that he should first go check what the definition of a mangrove is. Mangrove plants have roots with structures protruding above ground. Conocarpus is not a mangrove by any definition. Its common name became button mangrove because its original habitat was on the edge of marshes. But that is only a popular name, not the scientific one. And like I mentioned earlier, he himself has no basis for whatever he is saying. Quarantine?? this plant is a very common shrub in other countries that have used it. Its not like its something obscure that should require too much research before we can use it. A lot of it is already documented.

    Cheers! Glad you all liked this post.

  18. بستنی (wasiq) on May 21st, 2009 @ 10:27 pm

    @darkKnight…..aik rumor yeah bhi hai kay ARY ko kuch log otha kay ley gay hain….anyways,

    @SwERveUT…..Kya ZIMS sey koi shikayat hai toh is post pey kar saktey hain….mein nahein massi poonch rahe hai….?

    Tujhe dushmanon ki khabar na thi mujhe doston ka pata na tha
    Teri dastaan koi aur thi mera waqeya koi aur hai
    Kabhi lout aayein to poochna naheen dekhna unhein ghour sey
    Jinhein raste mein khabar hui keh yeh raasta koi aur hai

  19. firstofficer on May 22nd, 2009 @ 1:59 am

    Addition to the topic they grow very fast . I have some of them in my Neighboure

  20. darkknight on May 22nd, 2009 @ 8:02 am

    @Wasiq: Sir can you please elaborate on your rumor please..

  21. بستنی (wasiq) on May 22nd, 2009 @ 8:32 am

    @darkknight ….sure….

    Ohh Boy you looking like you like what you see
    Won’t you come over check up on it, I’m gone let you work up on it
    Ladies let em check up on it, watch it while he check up on it
    Dip it, pop it, twork it, stop it, check on me tonight

  22. Shamsi (shamsi) on May 22nd, 2009 @ 11:42 am

    fasee meyan what reference you are talking about ? which who when where i mentioned no university.???

    subah subah keya fresh greens ki aroma .. dhanya podina parsley .. sabzi kai thelay kai pas sai guzar kar tabyat garden garden ho jati hai ! :)

    I personally like Euclyptus but in a BIG GAMLA (2 feet deep 3 feet wide POT) it is natural mosquito repellent plus it helps keep atmosphere cool.

  23. fasee on May 22nd, 2009 @ 12:34 pm

    @ shamsi,

    Aray yara maaf kerna, reply kisi ko dena ta, naam aap ka daal diya.

    Make me rememebr my jawani ke pre-marriage days….jub MSN pe do windows pe ghalat naam likh ker kai online romance apnay "mantaqi" anjaam ko pohancha chuka hoon…;)

  24. MB (kar_munib) on May 23rd, 2009 @ 11:55 am

    bundle of thanks for this post dear author
    Quite informative and well written

    As for the TREE/PLANT being good/bad i guess the CDGK might have well taken care of this issue and decided to get it here else why would they. In any case , let more info come and we can decide then. Or some expert opinion may help

  25. SwERveUT (swerveut) on May 23rd, 2009 @ 7:35 pm

    ^^ Thanks for your appreciation. But like I said, most of the relevant information is already available. Expert or no expert. Do you know that the common "Sadabahar" is a poisonous plant? I guess most of us do not know that or make much fuss about it.

  26. yahudi4 on May 24th, 2009 @ 7:45 am

    Is that a sindhi name or a Ugandian….?…lol !

  27. Jamash (jamash) on May 24th, 2009 @ 9:02 pm

    I don’t think Sadabhar (Catharanthus roseus) is poisonous, but another common plant, which you would see in city in privet gardens and even in parks these days, Cycas revoluta, commonly known as sago Palm and locally known as "Kangi palm" is actually extremely poisonous to both humans and animals if ingested.

    BTW nice post buddy :)

  28. SwERveUT (swerveut) on May 26th, 2009 @ 8:32 pm

    ^^ You may not think it, but Sadabahar is a known hallucinogenic plant that has enough toxicity to cause digestive ailments. It is outlawed in the state of Louisiana

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