Rare floral diversity in the Western Ghats forests

A fluttering butterfly or a dashing cheetah immediately bring vivid images to mind. Does the image of a plant stir us as much? Are we as fascinated watching a flower bloom? Probably not. Maybe that’s why there is such a large focus on endangered animals and birds and not so much on plant species that are dying out. The Western Ghats is a great example of this. The floral diversity in this area is still untapped as revealed by two recent research reports by famous botanists. 

The first of these discoveries was made in the Vellari Maka, a peak in the Southern Western Ghats in 2010. Named Henckelia pradeepiana, this plant grew on moist rocks. However, this species wasn’t entirely new. It had first been spotted during a survey in 1997 but went missing since. Taxonomists finally located it while conducting a plant survey in the Southern Western Ghats 13 years later.

The second discovery was made in the Kallar Valley in Kerala’s Idukki district. Ophiorrhiza barnesii  was found by researchers at the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute in Palode, Kerala. This species was first reported by the British 76 years ago in 1937. This discovery is significant since this species had been tagged as possibly extinct due to its elusive nature.

Significance of Conservation 

The Shola Grasslands and forests in the Kudremukh National Park, Western Ghats, India.

These discoveries clarify one thing – that the floral wealth of the Western Ghats is still largely unexplored scientifically. Unless this happens, we cannot estimate the conservation significance of an area. Rigorous botanical surveys in the Southern Western Ghats are the need of the hour to validate new species and compare against existing ones. 

Studies show that the biodiversity on Earth is rapidly depleting. It is highly possible that many species will vanish before they become known to science. We are destroying the habitat of these rare species by our actions. It is time that the authorities and conservation groups pay attention to the study and conservation of the floral wealth in the Western Ghats. The time is now…before these plants say goodbye forever.