Flora of the Nilgiris

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The first book in this series ‘Forest plants of the Nilgiris- Eastern Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve-An Illustrated Field Guide’ was received well with students, foresters, professional and amateur naturalists. This book which is a second volume in this series, covers the dominant plant species in the land scape of Sigur plateau, Mudumalai, Bandipur and Nagarhole regions. These forest range from the dry deciduous to moist deciduous and are found as large extensive tracts. The evergreen and semi evergreen types are found in smaller fragmented tracts. They have not described in this book. These areas together form a part of the Northern Slopes of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.

The plants in this volume have been documented through the various surveys that were done in this region to locate indigenous bees. At Keystone, research on various indigenous bees is an ongoing process and nest densities, foraging behaviour, pollination etc. are studied in detail. In every plate, mention is made of the bee activity that was observed on the plant if it was observed and represented by the following icon .

The adivasi people of Sigur plateau viz. the Irula and Jenukurumba were our resource persons. They use the vegetative features of a plant, especially the bark and leaf, for identification. This book attempts to focus on such ‘all-season’ features and to build on crucial linkages between plants and habitat, by the adivasi people. The basic botanical information given complements this aspect of the book, collated from several authoritative sources on the flora of the region.

Leaves have been given prime importance, with details of their arrangement, shapes, bases, apices and margin collectively used in identification. The leaf icons at the end of the page were drawn from many sources, primarily the leaf based ‘Field Key to the Trees and Lianas of the Evergreen Forests of the Western Ghats (India)’ by J.P Pascal and B.R. Ramesh of the French Institute of Pondicherry.

The four parts of this book are Trees, Climbers, Shurbs & Herbs. A glossary of botanical terms used have been provided which have definitions. The vernacular names used by Irula and Jenukurumba peoples of the Sigur slopes, are also indexed and can be used as a possible ‘first lead’ to a plant.

The section on flower and fruit describes the most obvious characters about them, especially the colour, fragrance, shape and number of seeds. The seasons for each are indicated despite possibilities of slight variations between different locations.

Field tips contain all additional information that were considered as important distinguishing characters of the plant. Miscellaneous information is a collation of interesting facts that were gleaned from both (field and literary) sources.

The photographs accompanying the text show a picture of the seed; picture of the bark, the stance of the plant, a prominent flower, fruit or leaf – have been given.

Much of the information with regard to habit and habitat, field tips and local uses are put together in Indigenous Information. This was collated after small group discussions in which people from various villages participated and were generous enough to share their knowledge with each other and Keystone. The women of Sigur especially were very keen to share their information and ensure that it is documented. It must be mentioned here that the book describes plant use as narrated by the local adivasi people; the herbal prescriptions are taken in faith, without the contemporary scientific analysis.

When the information with regard to field tips, miscellaneous or indigenous information were not available they have been omitted from the plate. It is hoped that at some future date this omission can be corrected.

There are special pages on certain characteristic of plants that we see in this region. Special page A is a collection of the dominant trees of the landscape that stand out because of their gregarious flowering and catches one’s eye even as one hurtles past in one’s car. Special page B is also about one of the dominant genus in the area the Terminalias. They have characteristic barks which make identification interesting and simple. Special page C is about the shrubs and herbs that have been brought into this landscape and have invaded, colonized and grown as weeds. Finally, Special page D is about the different modifications seen in the plants of the region because they are in a rain shadow area.

Through this book it is hoped that the user better understands the role of a plant in the ecosystem. This book takes the plant trail to the Northern parts of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, one of the last pristine habitats for the Royal Bengal Tiger!

Forest Plants of The Nilgiris