Payyanur’s tryst with forgotten flora

PDG V G Nayanar, D 3202, planting a sapling in an arboretum.
PDG V G Nayanar, D 3202, planting a sapling in an arboretum.

Hopea parviflora, Actinodaphne malabarica, Cynometra beddomei — Sounds Greek and Latin? These are the botanical names of some of the plant species on the verge of extinction.

The Rotarians of RC Payyanur, D 3202, have came up with a unique community project — an attempt to preserve and revive some of the endangered flora varieties that are endemic in the Western Ghats region. The club with support and guidance from the Botany Department of Payyanur College have set up arboretums in various parts of Payyanur in Kerala. Naming it the ‘Threatened Trees ­Conservation Garden,’ they planted 1,111 saplings of 111 species of globally threatened plant troves.

“One hundred and eleven plant varieties to commemorate Rotary’s 111th anniversary,” said the club president C R Nambiar. The saplings have been planted in the club’s one-acre vacant plot at Muthathy, and at Payyanur college campus, Edanad and Kunhimangalam, where the local ­people also pitched in and have promised to help in the maintenance of the plants.

Without proper conservation, several medicinal plants have disappeared in the Western Ghats, said Nambiar. Dr Ratheesh Narayanan, a club member and Botany professor in Payyanur College was instrumental in identifying the various species from Wayanad for this club initiative. A scientist in plant taxonomy with about 15 years of association with the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, Narayanan has done a lot of research on the globally endangered plant varieties that are endemic to the region. Wayanad, in the Western Ghats, is a haven of biodiversity. Classified under categories such as critically endangered, vulnerable and rare, at least 352 globally threatened tree species grow here. Several of them have medicinal properties; “their barks and leaves are used in preparing arishtams and kashayams, that our State is known for, to treat complex disorders. These species need our attention and have to be protected,” he said.

The ex-situ preservation of such endangered trees will not only help in educating the student community about the diversity of plants but can also serve as source material for micro propagation, he added.

How about the post-planting care that is equally vital for the plants to grow? “These saplings are like our children; we will nurture them with utmost love and care,” assured the club president.

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