Additions to the flora of Sirumalai hills, Eastern Ghats, India
R. Vijaya Sankar 1, R. Kottaimuthu 2 & K. Ravikumar 3
1,3 Foundation for Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions (FRLHT), Bangalore, Karnataka 560064, India
2 Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bangalore, Karnataka 560024, India
Email: 3 email@example.com (Corresponding author)
The Sirumalai hills, situated in the southern most part of the Eastern Ghats in Tamil Nadu are known for their rich biodiversity for their close location to the Kodaikanal hills of the Western Ghats. They lie in Dindigul district, between 10000’-10030’N & 77033’-78015’E and at altitudes ranging from 400 to 1650 m. The lower hill ranges consist of highly disturbed scrub forests while tropical dry deciduous forests occupy the major portion of middle hill ranges. Semi-evergreen forests occur in the higher elevations and along valleys. Woodland savannahs are found along slopes. Bestowed with several endemic and medicinal plants, these hill ranges are facing severe threats owing to the growing anthropogenic disturbances and increasing coffee estates, rubber plantations, orchards and cultivation of several vegetable crops.
In spite of their rich plant wealth, the Sirumalai hills, have not been completely studied floristically in the recent times except ‘A Pocket Flora of the Sirumalai Hills, South India’ (Pallithanam 2001). It enumerates 895 species belonging to 536 genera of higher plants (excluding exotics). However, this work was compiled by K.M. Matthew based on the collections made by J.M. Pallithanam during 1955-1960. Subsequent to this pioneering work, for nearly half-a-century, only a few collections (Karuppusamy et al. 2001; Kottaimuthu et al. 2008 a&b) have been made in the recent past in these hills.
Botanical surveys were conducted in 2007, to enrich the collection of medicinal plants for FRLH (Herbarium of FRLHT, Bangalore), as part of ‘Center of Excellence’ project. This has resulted in the collection of 224 plant species under 237 field numbers. During the period of 2005-2008, botanical surveys were also conducted by ATREE for project on ‘Mapping and quantitative assessment of plant bio-resources’ in this region that resulted in the collection of 150 more species. Of these, 85 taxa are not reported earlier from the region and therefore form additions to the flora of Sirumalai hills (Table 1). All the herbarium specimens are deposited at FRLH (acronym of FRLHT Herbarium, Bangalore).
These 85 plant species spread over to 50 families of flowering plants and majority of them are herbs (40 species) followed by 21 trees, 14 shrubs and 10 climbers. A few introduced species such as Maesopsis eminii Engl. (Rhamnaceae) - a fast growing timber tree commonly planted in the coffee estates, Pimenta officinalis Lindl. (Myrtaceae) – the ‘all spice’ plant in addition to a few cereals, pulses and other vegetable crops have also been collected.
These studies indicate that several floristically rich areas in the State still remain botanically under-explored. Similar exercises in under/un-explored biodiversity rich areas would not only update the flora of the region but also bring out new distributional records to light.
Karuppusamy, S., K.M. Rajasekaran & S. Karmegam (2001). Endemic flora of Sirumalai hills (Eastern Ghats), south India. Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 25(2): 367-373.
Kottaimuthu, R., R. Ganesan, K. Natarajan, J. Brabhu & M. Vimala (2008). Additions to the flora of Eastern Ghats, Tamil Nadu, India. Ethnobotanical Leaflets 12: 299-304.
Kottaimuthu, R., R. Ganesan, V. Ganesan & V.M. Sundaram (2008). Enumeration of Orchids of Sirumalai hills (Eastern Ghats), Tamil Nadu, India. Ethnobotanical Leaflets 12: 506-512.
Pallithanam, J.M. (2001). In: Matthew, K.M. A pocket Flora of the Sirumalai Hills, South India. The Rapinat Herbarium, St.Joseph’s College, Tiruchirapalli, 360pp.