Sun. May 29th, 2022
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The Tropical Gene Pool Garden at Nadugani near Pandalur is home to more than 1,500 plants, mostly the flora endemic to the Western Ghats.

The orchids, ferns, creepers, climbers, hydrophytes, trees, shrubs and cacti, which now populate the entire garden, have for years been maintained by just a handful of workers and a botanist, with limited government funding.

Now, with fresh efforts to revive the garden, there is a renewed optimism among officials that the garden’s biodiversity can become a centre for the conservation and research of indigenous flora in the Western Ghats.

The garden is nestled in a green canopy of forest, comprising native flora including rare and endangered ferns and trees. People often fail to realise that the entire forest was raised after a Eucalyptus plantation was removed, said botanist S.K. Gomathy. She has been working at the garden since 2000, and has helped to keep the garden functional with the help of a few staff members of the Forest Department.

For many years, funding was minimal, with many species perishing for lack of manpower required for maintenance. Even now, the garden is maintained by only a handful of people. “At present, the garden is home to 70 species of ferns, 60 species of orchids, 15 hydrophytes, 90 medicinal plants and a variety of cacti,” Ms. Gomathy said.

“There are some rare and endangered species, too, including Syzygium travancoricum and Crotalaria longipes, a species whose flowers attract a multitude of butterflies,” Ms. Gomathy said.

Though the garden remains one of the Nilgiris’ least visited tourist spots, it is possibly one of the most ecologically important, with over 40 species of frogs seen alongside the flora. “Trees like Careya arborea, commonly called wild guava, are extremely important in local ecology. For instance, elephants consume the bark of this tree for digestion, while the tree itself can host many different species of orchids and epiphytic ferns,” she said.

“Our ultimate goal is to collect more native plant species, including the more than 100 different species of native grasses, and all 120 species of orchids seen in the Nilgiris,” said a top official of the Forest Department.

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