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Conservation of Southern Indian Ferns

Volume 3 Number 3 - December 1999

V.S. Manickam

The writer has thoroughly explored the Western Ghats of India for the past thirty years, and has collected about 10,000 specimens of some 300 species of pteridophyte. These specimens are deposited in the herbarium of St Xavier's College. He has also published a paper in the British Fern Gazette on the rare and endangered ferns of the Western Ghats.

The Indian Government's Ministry of Environment and Forests is currently sponsoring a project for the micropropagation, using tissue culture, of eight endangered fern species. So far Miss Catharin Sara has raised Cyathea crinita and Thelypteris confluens through spore culture, and these species are growing in the greenhouse attached to the Biodiversity Centre. She has also raised prothalli of two more endangered species – Pyrrosia lanceolata and Athyrium nigripes. Another research scholar, Mr S Vallinayagam, has obtained prothalli of Hypodematium crenatum and Diplazium cognatum.

We have about fifty species of fern growing in the Biodiversity Centre greenhouse. Amongst these, Sphaerostephanos unitus and Humata repens are also endangered. It is interesting to note that species such as Dryopteris oppositipinna and Thelypteris confluens, which flourish at altitudes as high as 2400 m, are also growing in the greenhouse.

The Provincial of the Jesuit province of Madurai has donated a hundred acres of forest at Kodaikanal Town in the Palni Hills for the development of a botanic garden. This undisturbed area of forest, situated at about 1600 m altitude, is suitable for growing both low-altitude and high-altitude species. The author has himself recorded 400 species of flowering plants in this forest area.

The Indian Government's Ministry of Environment and Forests has recently authorised a sum of US$ 25,000 for developing the infrastucture needed for the new botanic garden. The writer is planning to set up a floricultural centre in the neighbourhood, using local people. Plants of horticultural importance such as gerberas, lilies, gladioli and anthuriums will be cultivated. The endangered ferns which have been micropropagated at Palayamkottai, along with other Indian ferns, will also be cultivated in this centre.