Yercaud’s best kept secrets are now open to the public.

Jurassic age botanical heritage on display at Yercaud flower showAll Images: Yercaud Ilango / Begonia Coccinea
Features Flower Show Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - 19:23

Equisetum Arvense was a tree 22 crore years ago sharing time and space with the extinct dinosaurs. But in the evolutionary process, it has now been reduced to a small plant that can be grown in a pot.

Begonia Coccinea also called as Angel  Wing begonia because of its spotted two leaves is the shape of  an angel"s wing. 

Psilotaceae was the first plant species on our planet to grow erect and is the mother of trees, with branching out character. This fern survives to this day and is one of the rarest of rare ferns.

Considered as Yercaud’s best kept secrets till very recently, these and many rarer, endangered and endemic heritage plants are on display at the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) gallery in the Yercaud flower show. Primitive varieties of orchids, begonias, ferns, cacti, medicinal and pepomia varieties that sound music only to the ears of botanists and environmentalists, are stacked on display for public view.

Bixa Orellana which is also called lip stick plant because of the red dye obtained by squeezing which can be applied to colour the lip.

Not colourful and attractive, these multi-syllable, hard-sounding varieties are a real put off when seen against the backdrop of thousands of fresh flowers of alluring tones and hues on the nearby stands at the flower show. But to a botanist or a true nature lover, it is a veritable treasure trove. For the uninitiated, thankfully the BSI‘s staffers give the details in layman’s language. The 230 pots of plants on display have botanical names and also their colloquial equivalents tagged to the plant.

Accanthlapipum Bicolor is a flowering orchid which is now rare and endangered. The flower remains fresh for more than three months. Arachis Villosa is a pen-tip sized groundnut variety. BSI Garden overseer BS Elango says, this is an ancient variety of groundnut about 8,000 years old from which the present groundnut varieties have evolved.

Rubia Cordifolia is used as a medicine for insect stings. There is also a flower that closes when any insect sits on it. Hence, it is called insect eater.

Equisetum Arvense that was a tree during the dinosaur’s times is now a small plant.

Angel Wing Begonia is the most sensually attractive with very bright and subtle colours among the begonias and is said to have commanded the respect of connoisseurs’ clubs in European countries. Bentincia Condapanna is found only in Kalakadu in the entire world. 

Veronia Sheveroyensis is a tree, rare and endemic only to Yercaud in which sunflower blossoms. Sunflower growing in trees? Yes, only on this rare tree type. The original mother tree is found in the BSI Garden in Yercaud. Asteraceae is another endemic species of Yercaud. Bixa Orellana is also called lipstick tree. The dye can be obtained by squeezing the plant and applied on the lip. Commercial extraction is also done from the plant.

Eryingium Foetitum is a substitute for coriander (colloquially called Andaman Coriander) while Allium Hybrid is an onion – garlic substitute plant. Costus Spicatus plant keeps insulin under control and Phylanthus Pinnata controls jaundice. Because of their increased use for medicinal purposes, many of these plants are becoming endangered, says a Botanical Assistant at BSI.

Paphiopellium Spicerianum  in lay terms terms is called as ladies slipper orchid as it has a labium in the shape of  foot wear. The rare Himalayan orchid  remains in bloom for more than 100 days.

The Botanical Survey of India (BSI), Southern Regional Centre Yercaud is also a National Orchidarium and an Experimental Garden. This is only the second National Orchidarium in the country. The National Orchidarium conserves 188 species of orchids of which 60 are rare, endangered and endemic. Besides these, BSI garden has bulbous, cacti, suculants, ferns, medicinal plants, palms and curio variety plants of which 6o are rare, endangered and endemic. Besides these, there are 150 rare trees.  

The display at the flower show is a window to the BSI Garden cum National Orchidarium. The Flower Show helps attract tourists to the garden which otherwise get only researchers and college students on study tours on any normal day, say the BSI officials.

With environmental conservation being the theme of the 43rd Summer Festival in Yercaud, the BSI’s showcase is expected to give depth and deeper level of sensitivity to the public, say BSI officials. However, despite the BSI gallery getting a vantage position in the flower show, it could get only a passing crowd compared to the huge footfalls on the fresh cut flower displays.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisamy who inaugurated the Summer Festival on Saturday, spent some time at BSI’s gallery. He was able to recollect some of the hard-sounding species during his speech while highlighting the importance of the biodiversity of Yercaud Hills and the need for public awareness to conserve and protect the botanical heritage.

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.