In the process of discovering and developing this hill station and its surroundings, the pioneers, mainly members of the Raj, came across many areas, which were covered with ferns (non-flowering plants).

On seeing most of a hill on the far side of the town wearing a fern carpet, the pioneers who had made it a practice to christen different parts of the town and its suburbs after their main features, called it Fern Hill. Alas, with time and development taking their toll, the ferns are now hard to come by even on Fern Hill.

With concern over the fate of one of the notable natural features of this district growing, a couple here has embarked on a mission to enhance awareness about the significance of the steady disappearance of the plants.

As part of their bid to save whatever is left of the ferns of the Blue Mountains, the couple Benedict Patric and Joy Benedict, both teachers, have displayed a collection of ferns at the 115th Flower Show, which is now in progress at the Government Botanical Garden here.

The initiative has come in for appreciation not only among the discerning visitors but also tourists who were hitherto not aware of the importance of ferns. Speaking toThe Hindu, Ms. Benedict acknowledged the role played by the Assistant Director of Horticulture, M. Pakasam, in focusing attention on the ferns at the Flower Show. Pointing out that Ooty and surroundings once abounded with ferns, she lamented that they can now be found only in a few pockets like Avalanche, Upper Bhavani, Selas and Dodabetta. Lack of tree cover is one of the reasons for ferns not thriving in some places.

Stating “collection of ferns is our passion”, she added that they fall under the botanical group known as Pteridophyta. They have stems, leaves and roots like other vascular plants and do not have either seeds or flowers.

Though their economic importance is not much, they are in demand as ornamental plants and they are known for remediating contaminated soils. Adverting to the Fern House, one of the unique features of the Government Botanical Garden, some of the local visitors said that high priority should be accorded to protecting it.

More In: TAMIL NADU | NATIONAL