Herbarium to preserve flora of Western Ghats for posterity

Herbarium to preserve flora of Western Ghats for posterity

At Pilikula

Project in-charge officer  Ramakrishna Marati showing a Herbarium sheet.Addressing this grave issue is Pilikula Nisargadhama which is all set to establish a ‘Herbarium’ and ‘Botanical museum’ to keep track of the rich flora in the Western Ghats and hence save the species from extinction.

Karnataka Biodiversity Board which comes under the Department of Ecology, Environment and Forest (Government of Karnataka) sanctioned Pilikula Nisargadhama, a Rs 1.2- crore project titled 'Establishment of a Herbarium and a Botanical Museum of Western Ghat Plants' on December 9, 2010. The five-year project will grant the Nisargadhama Rs 24 lakh a year to establish a Herbarium and a Botanical  Museum.

Herbarium

In botany, a Herbarium refers to a collection of preserved plant specimens. These specimens may be whole plants or plant parts, which are usually in a dried form mounted on a sheet.

Herbaria are essential for the study of plant taxonomy, study of geographic distributions and stabilising of nomenclature. Specimens housed in herbaria may be used to catalogue or identify the flora of an area and it also helps in preserving historical record of change in vegetation over time. In case a plant becomes extinct the specimens preserved in herbarium can represent the only record of the plant's original distribution.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Pilikula Nisargadhama Scientific and Project-in-Charge Officer
Ramakrishna Marati said  that Western Ghats are estimated to have over 17,000 plant species out of which only 5,000 are identified.

Among the 5,000 plants, 1,720 are endemic to Western Ghats and more than 600 are identified as endangered.

A team of five officers will visit different areas of Western Ghats periodically and collect samples of plants, which are in a flowering stage. Later these specimens will be disinfected using formalin solution and dried between newspapers and pressed using a small wooden press.

Once dried, these plants are pasted on a special handmade herbarium sheet. All details of plants like the plant’s local and botanical name, family, habitat, location where it is found along with the latitude and longitude, date of collection, collector’s details and other important information are pasted on the sheet below the specimen and later the sheets are carefully preserved in a cupboard.

"Every sheet in the herbarium has to be confirmed and crosschecked in the Pune Herbarium as Pilikula falls under the Botanical Survey of India Pune region. Pilikula is targeting to identify a minimum of 150 species of plants a year, he adds".

Botanical Museum

A botanical museum will also be opened at Pilikula which will display a collection of important plant parts such as fruits, seeds, wood cuttings, leaves, rhizomes, root system, inflorescence and others.

Marati said that the museum will be open for public and collection of plant parts has already been started. It may take five years to have a full-fledged museum, he says.

"The collection is a continuous process as species are enormous and as long as Pilikula Nisargadhama exists the process will continue," says Pilikula Nisargadhama Executive
Director J R Lobo.

 

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