Kerala

Of plant species few and far between

A view of the southern Western Ghats  

Scientists have recorded a major section of Rare Endemic and Threatened plants and trees in the Western Ghats, some of which have not been assessed by international conservation bodies for nearly two decades.

Knema attenuata

Knema attenuata  

The Botanical Survey of India (BSI) project on endemic tree resources in the southern Western Ghats, including Kerala and Tamil Nadu, has now documented about 250 ‘RET’ species.

The assessment of some of these conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature for the IUCN Red List puts them under vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered categories based on literature from 1998.

Ochreinauclea missionis

Ochreinauclea missionis  

The three-member team led by K. A. Sujana, Scientist, BSI , told The Hindu on Tuesday that flowers and fruits of more than 250 RET plants were collected, and many of them were flowering or setting fruit only in the rainy season.

Nearly 177 species were recorded in Kerala’s Wayanad district, especially from biodiversity hotspots like Kurichyarmala, Ranimala, Aranamala, Chembra peak, Periya and Kuruva island, Dr. Sujana said. The BSI is undertaking a three-year programme to document economically important endemic trees nationally.

The 22-day expedition set off on June 17 from Kurichyarmala in Wayanad and the team spent nearly one week in Wayanad and Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiri district. Four RET species were found in Masinagudi, Kallatti and Pandallur in the Nilgiris.

The Malabar coast, Periyar National Park, Sholayar-Valparai region and Anamalai were part of the project.

Heavily exploited

Poorly documented, heavily exploited or habitat-deprived species such as Kingiodendron pinnatum, known in Malayalam as Chukannapayini, Cynometra travancorica, Vateria indica and Hopea parviflora now have better records.

Hopea ponga

Hopea ponga  

 

Evidence on medicinally important plants including Aglaia malabarica (critically endangered in the Red List), Myristica malabarica (vulnerable), Syzigium stocksii and Syzigium dhaneshiana as well as economically important ones like Humboldtia vahliana (unsustainably collection) and Hopea ponga has been gathered.

With the availability of samples, the chemical constitution, pharmacological values and economic importance of these plants will be studied, Dr. Sujana said.

A lot of the existing knowledge on these plants comes from tribal communities. By contrast, the common man is unaware or has not even heard of many RET plants. The exploration concludes on Sunday with a visit to the Travancore region.

Otonephelium stipulaceum

Otonephelium stipulaceum  

 

Dr. ABD Selvam, scientist and A. Saravanan, botanist, BSI are the other team members.

The team visited the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and many regions of the Eastern Ghats too, as a part of the project. In the Andamans, the researchers documented 127 endemic trees.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2020 2:17:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/of-plant-species-few-and-far-between/article19216619.ece

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