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close this bookBiodiversity in the Western Ghats: An Information Kit (IIRR, 1994, 224 p.)
close this folder6. Plants, fungi and bacteria
View the document6.1 Plant associations of the central Western Ghats
View the document6.2 Rare and endangered flowering plants
View the document6.3 Medicinal resources from the forest and sea
View the document6.4 Poisonous plants
View the document6.5 Fungi: Biodiversity, ecology and use
View the document6.6 Conserving fungi
View the document6.7 Edible mushrooms
View the document6.8 Microbial biodiversity of salt pans

6.2 Rare and endangered flowering plants

Today we are losing at least one flowering plant species per day from tropical forests alone. If the present trend continues, about - 25% of the world's 250,000 flowering plant species will be lost in the next few decades. Another 25% may be lost by the end of the 21st century.

Because plants and animals depend on each other, as many as 30 dependent species may be lost when one plant becomes extinct. It is estimated that the loss of species attributable to the loss of rain forest is somewhere between 0.2 and 0.3% per year. If the world contains one million species, this amounts 2,000 to 3,000 species lost per year. If the world has 10 million species, we could be losing as many as 30,000 species per year-or almost 100 per day.

India is one of the world's main centres of biodiversity. As many as 15-20% of India's flowering plant species are threatened.

Importance of flowering species

· Each species plays a role in its ecosystem. The loss of one species can reverberate through the ecosystem, reducing its total diversity and possibly its stability and long-term sustainability.

· Flowering plants provide most of our food and have many other uses. A species may have uses we have not yet even dreamed of.

· Some 80,000 species of edible plants are known. But we presently use only 30% of these for food. The vast majority of our staple food needs are met by just three species: wheat, rice and maize. The remaining species are underexploited.

· Many endangered plants could have medicinal uses.
· Some species could provide fuelwood, timber or fibre.
· A number of endangered species can be used in horticulture or as ornamentals.

Endangered species: In danger of extinction if present trends continue.
Vulnerable: Likely to become endangered if trends continue.
Rare: Not currently endangered, but at risk of becoming so.
Threatened: Species in any of the above categories.

Wasp or orchid?

An orchid found in the Western Ghats looks so similar to a wasp that even the wasps are confused.

The labellum of Cottonia pedunculare is very similar in size, shape, colour and smell to a female wasp. The orchid starts flowering in April and May, when male wasps emerge from the ground.

The disguise is so perfect that the male wasp takes the labellum for a female wasp. It mates with the flower, pollinating the flower in the process.


Wasp or orchid?

Ecological disaster?

As many as half the current 250,000 species of flowering plants could be extinct by the year 2100.


Ecological disaster?

Threatened flowering plants of the Western Ghats of Maharashtra

Plant species

Region of occurrence

Status

Uses

Abutilon ranadei

Amba Ghats, Vasota fort

Endangered

Ornamental

Aponogeton bruggenIi

Kudal, Konkan

Endangered

Aquarium, ornamental

Arisaema murrayIi

Mahableshwar

Endangered

Ornamental

Begonia trichocarpa

Highest peaks of Westem

Endangered

Ornamental

Brachystelma malwanensis

Malwan, Konkan

Endangered

Food

Camptorrhiza indica

Ratnagiri, Konkan

Endangered

Ornamental, potential use in plant breeding

Ceropegia vincaefolia.

Konkan caves, Kas plateau

Rare

Ornamental, food

Ceropegia sahyadrica

Gaganbavada, Ambdi

Rare

Ornamental, food

Ceropegia vincaefolia

Kanheri caves, Kas plateau

Rare

Ornamental, food

Chlorophyllum borivillianum

Kanhari caves

Rare

Ornamental

Chlarophylum glaucum

Western Ghats

Rare

Ornamental, food

Curcuma decipiens

Konkan

Endangered

Medicinal

Crinum brachynema

Mahableshwar

Endangered

Ornamental

Cryptocoryne cognate

Ratnagiri, Malwan

Rare


Dipoadi saxorum

Kanheri caves

Endangered

Food

Dipcadi concanense

Ratnagiri, Deogad, Malwan

Rare

Ornamental, food

Decashistia trilobata

Western Ghats

Endangered


Dendrobium microbubon

Western Ghats and Konkan

Endangered


Eulophia ramentacaea

Western Ghats

Endangered

Ornamental

Frerea indica

Purandar forest?

Endangered

Ornamental

Habenaria caranjensis

Western Ghats

Probably extinct


Prepared by Dr. S. Yadav