Almost one of every four species of flowering plants found in India is endemic to the country, a recent publication by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) has revealed. Of these, Tamil Nadu accounts for the highest number of species with 410, followed by Kerala with 357 and Maharashtra with 278.
Of the 18,259 flowering plants reported in the country, 4,303 (over 23 per cent) are found only in India, as per scientific data in a recently released book, Endemic Vascular Plants of India.
When it comes to the geographical distribution of endemic plants, the Western Ghats tops the list with about 2,116 species, followed by the Eastern Himalayas with 466 species.
According to scientists, these two regions are among the biodiversity hot spots of the country.
Scientists of the BSI have listed at least 37 species of Black plum Syzyguim (Jamun), 10 varieties of Musa (banana), along with 274 species of orchids, which are found only in the country. Four different varieties of roses, two herbs and two climbers and 12 species of jasmines are exclusively found in India.
When it comes to spices, the endemic species list is no less interesting. This includes 45 species belonging to the common black pepper family, 19 species of ginger and 13 different kinds of large cardamom. There are also 40 species of bamboos (Bambusoideae), which are endemic to India.
Further some of these endemic species are restricted to only certain areas of the country, like Nepenthes khasiana, an insectivorous plant only found in the Khasi hills of Meghalaya. A total of 58 generea of flowering plants have been found to be endemic to India.
As far as endemism regarding vascular plants in India is concerned, the publication reveals that of the 19, 635 vascular plants found in the country, 4,381 are endemic. This includes 4,303 angiosperms or flowering plants, 12 gymnosperms - mostly Cycads, and 66 ferns and fern allies which come under the group Pteridophytes.
“The publication will contribute to better understanding and conservation of the endemic plants, a part of our natural heritage. A complete information about the endemic plants in the country will go a long way in their conservation,” Paramjit Singh, Director Botanical Survey of India (BSI) told The Hindu.
Mr Singh said among the Gymnosperms, non-flowering plants, at least six species of Cycas are found in the country. These plants are known to have existed from the Jurassic era and are commonly referred as living fossils as they grow very slowly.
“Around 53 per cent of all endemic flowering plants are herbs, 20 per cent are shrubs and 15 per cent are trees," said Sudhansu Sekhar Dash, a scientist with the BSI and one of authors of the publication said.
Among the most widely exploited endemic plants in country is Pterocarpus santalinus, commonly known as red sandal wood, which is found only in the southern parts of the Eastern Ghats. This plant is classified as critically endangered under International Union for Conservation of Nature ( IUCN) category because of its dwindling habitat due to economic over-exploitation. Some of the wild orchids, which are also endemic, are also exploited heavily.