KSSP activist stumbles upon yellow mangrove on a 40-acre island of Ashtamudi Lake

A mangrove species, long believed to have gone extinct in the State, was sighted on an isolated private island of Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam. 'Ceriops tagal' or the yellow mangrove has been listed by the Forest Department as a “mangrove species that had disappeared from Kerala.”

But last week, Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad activist V.K. Madhusudhanan chanced upon the “disappeared” yellow mangroves, sporting a spectacular greenish yellow canopy of leaves on the 40-acre Puthenthuruthu island not far from the Neendakara estuary. He was at the island for an inspection on alleged mangrove destruction in the area.

A mother tree

Mr. Madhusudhanan told The Hindu that he identified the yellow mangroves from a dense collection of at least five other species of mangroves. He also noted a quite mature mother yellow mangrove there and believes that the grove of yellow mangroves on the island could have germinated from the mother tree.

His finding has been confirmed by botanist N. Ravi who also visited the site along with S. Sun, Assistant Conservator of Forests (Social Forestry) on Monday. Mr. Sun said that the sighting of yellow mangroves is exciting news for the Forest Department and the island will be seen as a botanical treasure. Yellow mangroves have great value as a fisheries habitat.

Next move

In the wake of the find, he will now send a proposal to the department's top brass to consider acquiring the entire island. Recognising the importance of mangroves, the State government has made substantial monetary allocations for acquiring and protecting private land with rich mangrove forests.

In addition to the greenish yellow leaves, another distinguishing feature of the yellow mangroves is their buttressed base. Prof. Ravi told The Hindu that it is after a gap of more than 150 years that yellow mangroves have been sighted and identified in Kerala. The sighting is the first since 1850s when the British botanical explorer R. Wight (1796-1872) noted in his accounts of sighting the yellow mangrove at Quilon (former name of Kollam).

J.S. Gamble, Conservator of Forests of the Madras Presidency under the British Raj during the early 20th century, mentions in his book “Flora of the Presidency of Madras” about the yellow mangroves at Quilon quoting Wight though Gamble himself had not seen them here, Prof. Ravi said. There is no record of yellow mangroves growing anywhere else in Kerala, he said.