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close this bookBiodiversity in the Western Ghats: An Information Kit (IIRR, 1994, 224 p.)
close this folder5. Agriculture
View the document5.1 Rice diversity and conservation in the Konkan
View the document5.2 Conservation of traditional vegetables in the backyard
View the document5.3 Genetic diversity in mango and cashew
View the document5.4 Floriculture and arboriculture
View the document5.5 Enriched biodiversity by plant introductions
View the document5.6 Impact of introduced plants
View the document5.7 Effects of pesticides on biodiversity
View the document5.8 Khazan (saline) lands

5.4 Floriculture and arboriculture

The warm, humid climate of the Western Ghats is conducive to plant growth all year round. A vast collection of grasses, herbs, shrubs and trees grow in the varied ecosystems of the region. Some have been commercially used-even over-exploited. Others have their commercial or ornamental value yet to be discovered.

When a plant species is domesticated and used, its economic value ensures that it is multiplied and preserved. On the other hand, this can lead to a narrowing of the genetic resource as only those varieties or species of economic value are conserved.


The Western Ghats are home to 250 orchid species, of which 100 are endemic. There are 71 species of Impatiens, some species of palms, 150 species of grasses and other plants of ornamental value. A host of introduced plant species, including Hibiscus, Lantana and Capsicum have naturalized in this region.

The government focuses attention on commercial floriculture by identifying centers where particular plants can thrive (such as orchids in Kerala), and promotes the industry through generous subsidies. It discourages the offering of bouquets and garlands by encouraging event organizers to offer a potted plant to guests. Alternatively, the guest can plant a tree at the event site.

Worth 1000 words...

Flowering plants beautify our houses and add colour and fragrance to our cities. They hide ugly spots and protect homes from dust and noise. They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

Flowers adorn women's hair and decorate pictures of gods, saints, national leaders and deceased loved ones. Garlands are exchanged by the bride and groom in traditional Indian marriages, especially among Hindus. Flower scents are extracted for use when the flowers themselves are not available.

Flowers of a certain species or colour are associated with Hindu dieties. For instance, white flowers are offered to Shiva. At Mangueshi temple, only Zuyee flowers are offered at a special pools during the full-moon at the end of the rains.

Irrespective of religion, we offer bouquets on joyous occassions and wreaths at funerals. The age-old tradition of putting a token trowel of soil on the grave has been replaced by the placing of a flower.


Trees are original inhabitants of the Western Ghats. Native tree species are still abundant, though their numbers have decreased.

Coconut and cashew plantations are not a threat to native species. Acacia auriculiformis and A. mangium, introduced from Australia for planting on mining dumps, may become a threat to native species if they are not controlled.

Large-scale felling of teak and other timber species is not desirable in the Western Ghats. The region's steep slopes and heavy rainfall makes the soil prone to erosion. The traditional practice of selective felling of mature trees is a more suitable alternative.

Flowers in the economy

The jasmine group of Mogrem, Zuyee (J. sambac, J. officinale and J. auriculatum) combine beauty with fragrance. Jasmines are used to make aromatic jasmine oil used in cosmetics and soaps.


Cut flower growing is a booming business in India. Orchids, anthuriums, roses and chrysanthemums are grown for export of cut flowers.
Periwinkles are grown extensively for extraction of cancer-curing alkaloids.
Glorylily pods and roots are used in medicine.

Timber plantations

A number of companies are promoting monoculture teak and rosewood plantations in the Western Ghats. They promise high profits, but current levels of technology does not make such planting feasible or desirable. Block felling at a later date will result in soil erosion.

Timber plantations

Indigenous and exotic tree species in the Western Ghats




Runeala plum, jagam, jangma

Flacourtia jagomas

Fruits relished by children. Eaten after softening between the palms of the hands.

Adam's fruit, adao, manilphal

Mimusops kauki

Fruits are eaten. Seedlings used as rootstocks for sapota grafts. Wood is used for furniture.

Elengi, bakul, vonvlam

Mimusops elengi

Creamy-brown scented flowers are used as hair adornment and to mask body odour. Fruits are edible.

Java plum, jamun, jambool

Syzyzium cumin

Fruit is edible and used in control of diabetes. Excellent for wines, liquor. Wood is good timber.

Guava, pew, amrud

Psidium guajava

Fruit is the tropical apple, rich in vitamin C and pectin. Made into jellies. Wood for walking sticks.

Cashew, kaju

Anacardium occidentale

Kernel is excellent snack, Shell liquid used for termite control, "apples" used for alcoholic drink.

Mango, ambo, am*

Mangifera indica

Excellent table fruit, trunk is used to make dug- out boats. Leaves used in religious ceremonies.

Hog plum, ambado

Spondias mangifera

Immature fruit cooked at Divali, made into pickle in brine or spices. Ripe fruit relished.

Bengal almod, badam*

Terminalia catappa

Fruit pulp and kernel edible. Leaves become red in cold weather, beautiful tree for large garden.

Marat, marti*

Terminalia creneleta

High class timber, adopted as the State Tree of Goa.


Terminalia paniculata

High class timber obtained from its trunk.

Benteak, nano, nanan*

Laigestroemia lanceolata

Wood used in furniture and ship-building. Bark is used for tanning leather.

Indian teak, sailo, jati*

Tectona grandis

Most commonly used wood for furniture, rafters, railway sleepers.

Jack, pangs, borkoi*

Artocarpus integrifolia

Multiple fruit relished, rich in vitamins A and C, Wood used for furniture. used as cattle feed.

White teak, shewan*

Gmelina arborea

Wood used in mine-shafts and or handles. Fruit is eaten by some birds and animals.

* indigenous to India

Flowering trees, shrubs and creepers

Common name

Scientific name

Local name

Parts used




Crossandra udulifolia

Abolim, priyadarsha


Festivals, weddings, Lent season processions, traditional folk dances(Dekni, Fugdi and Mando)

Jasmines (Indigenous)

Jasminum sp.

Mogrim, zuye, zayee

Flowers, scent

Zayeechi Poornima (full moon) festival


Catharanthus roseus

Perpet, sadaphuli

Flowers, leaves

Leukemia treatment. Normally grown in cemeteries as it requires little maintenance. Commercially cultivated.

Ixora (Exotic)

Ixora coccinea

Pitkol, pidkol

Flowers, stem

Wreaths, walking sticks.


Lantana camera



Flower beds. Used as mosquito replellant. Easily becomes a weed if seeds are allowed to germinate.

Paper chase(Exotic)


White bracts



Hibiscus rosasinensis

Doshin, dushwanti


Ornamental, shoe/heir blackener. As salad dressing, along with onions. White flowers used in Shiva temples.

Sickle senna(Indigenous)

Cassia tore

Thaikulo, taikulo

Leaves, seeds

Vegetable, ringworm cure, mordant, coffee substitute during economic crisis


Rosa sp.



Bouquets, rose water. "Gulkand" (a paste of rose petals and sugar) eaten with betel leaves and areca nut ("pan supari') on festive occassions.





Potted plant which flowers almost all year

(Patient Lucy)



Indian labernum(Exotic)

Cassia fistula


Flowers, leaves, pods

Ornamental, liver ailments, purgative(crushed pipe-Eke pod)


Michelia champaca

Champa, chamfo


Hair adornment, fragrant flowers, normally wrapped in banana leaf, often sold at bus stands.

Coral tree(Indigenous)

Erythrina indica


Flowers, leaves, whole tree

Ornamental, fodder (leaves), shade in coffee plantaions, support for pepper vines


Cycus bedami


Whole tree, leaves

Ornamental palm

Fishtail palm

Caryota urens

Billo mead

Whole tree, leaves

Ornamental, caryota leaves and fruit bunches used as decoration at feasts and weddings.



(Exotic) Polianthes sp.

Rajniganda, tuberose


Bouquets, garlands, scents. Flowers add fragrance to reception halls.

Marigold (Exotic)

Tagetes erecta



Garlands, anthelminthic, stomach upset(flower decorations), garlands at Desshera festivals and weddings

Glory lily(Indigenous)

Gloriosa superba


Flowers, fruits, roots

Ornamental, leprosy treatment

Ice-cream creeper (Exotic)

Antigonum leptopus




Rangoon creeper (Indigenous)

Quisqualis indica



Ornamental, flowers worn in hair

Prepared by Michael Braganza