On eve of World Environment Day, list of 1,500 plant species conserved in U'khand released

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Dehradun, Jun 4 (PTI) The research wing of Uttarakhand Forest Department on the eve of World Environment Day released a list of 1,576 plant species conserved in the state, including the ones that are unique to the Himalayan region.

Apart from the plant species that are unique or endemic to the Himalayan region, the list also includes those species declared ‘threatened’ in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Uttarakhand is the first state in the country to initiate the practice of releasing such a list of conserved plant species annually and this is the second consecutive year of its release, Chief Conservator of Forest (research) Sanjiv Chaturvedi said on Friday.

The list which forms part of a comprehensive 268-page report containing detailed information on each conserved species covers the entire plant kingdom in all its bewildering variety from trees, shrubs, herbs, grass to orchid, bamboo, moss, lichen, algae and the aquatic species, he said.

The count of the conserved plant species in Uttarakhand last year stood at 1,147 which has risen to 1,576 this year with the addition of 429 new species.

Out of these, 73 plant species are ‘threatened’ ones, including 15 species declared threatened by the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board, and the rest in the IUCN Red List, the official noted.

Some of the plant species under this category include Aquillaria agallocha, Agar Nardostachys jatamansi Jatamansi, Lilium polyphyllum Kshira Kakoli, Saussurea costus and Gentiana Kurroo Trayman that are critically endangered both in IUCN and Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board records.

Plants unique to Uttarakhand and the Himalayan region include Pittosporium eriocarpum known locally as ‘Tumri’, a flowering plant that grows in Uttarakhand; Diplomeris hirsuta or Snow Orchid; Pecteilis gigantean or Butterfly orchid; Prunus cornuta, locally called ‘Jamoi’; Aconitum balfouri or Meetha Vish, a herb that is also broadly endemic to Uttarakhand; and Meizotropis pellita or Patwa that grows in Nainital district, Chaturvedi said.

Around 53 species that figure in the list are unique to Uttarakhand and the Himalayan region and around 500 of the conserved plants have medicinal qualities.

The list includes 415 tree species, 130 shrub species, 37 types of bamboo, 15 types of Tulsi, 87 orchid varieties, 96 fern species, 88 grass species, 45 aquatic, 30 moss species and 87 lichens, he said.

The initiative assumes importance given the alarming rate at which plants are becoming extinct because of rampant forest felling, illegal extraction, forest fires, grazing and construction.

'Plant blindness, a term coined by two US botanists in 1998 to underline our ignorance and neglect of the importance of plants in our environment, is another factor why an initiative like this gains significance,' Chaturvedi stated.

He said while plant blindness leads to under appreciation of plants despite their invaluable importance not just to ecology but also to human life in the long run, the focus always remains on the conservation of mega faunal species like tigers and elephants, which may not be as crucial to human existence as plants.

PTI ALM SRY