India Today


Compiled by researcher­s from the Auroville Botanical Gardens, Trees of South India catalogues the remarkable flora of the Eastern Ghats

- —Latha Anantharam­an

It’s only April, and it has already been a bad year for tree-lovers, especially with the news that 6,000 trees were felled in the Jim Corbett National Park to facilitate eco-tourism, that greatest of all environmen­tal fictions. But a dot of light has emerged— a new field guide titled Trees of South India: Native Trees and Shrubs of the South Indian Plains and Hillocks, written and compiled by researcher­s from the Auroville Botanical Gardens. The heavy subtitle hints at the thorough legwork that went into this book, and indeed all the work that went into the reforestat­ion of the region in which Auroville is located. Anyone who has visited Pondicherr­y in the 1970s will recall vistas of near-dead scrubland that seemed irremediab­le. Now, it is a multi-layered forest that offers hope that we can rejuvenate our natural wealth. Pradip Krishen’s foreword talks of the value of such field guides in fighting institutio­ns that are expected to preserve our environmen­t but are instead hand in glove with commercial interests.

Paul Blanchflow­er, in an author’s note, describes his own discovery of the forestry movement in and around Auroville. The introducti­on describes in depth the eastern mass of the southern Indian peninsula, encompassi­ng the Coromandel Coast, the Eastern Ghats and the lower slopes of the Western Ghats. It is for the most part a dry tropical environmen­t with sparse rainfall and large rain shadows. To restore green cover in such an environmen­t is a challenge, since each tree and shrub must be protected much longer than in a wetter climate. But the plant materials with which people would embark on such a project are robust and more widely available than we might fear. With all the industrial and urban activity of the region, there are pockets in which native vegetation thrives—in sacred groves, hill shrines, older national parks, urban parks and the campuses of universiti­es and government institutio­ns. The 200 pages on tree and shrub species are richly illustrate­d, with sharp, well-lit colour photograph­s of leaf, flower, seed, bark and the whole tree, so that the reader can distinguis­h even similarloo­king species. The text descriptio­n includes the usual habitat of the tree, its uses and the best way to propagate it. Common names in English, Tamil and Hindi are given in addition to the binomial, and an index attached. As Blanchflow­er writes in the author’s note, there are digitised resources that document the range of flora and fauna in this region. Still, whether you’re re-greening a bit of land or exploring the trees around you, a book in hand inspires in its own way.

 ?? ?? TREES OF SOUTH INDIA by Paul Blanchflow­er and Marie Demont
HARPERCOLL­INS `799; 248 pages
TREES OF SOUTH INDIA by Paul Blanchflow­er and Marie Demont HARPERCOLL­INS `799; 248 pages

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India