Common Plant Species of India
Teak: This tree is from the South-west part of peninsular India. It is a common tree in deciduous forests. It yields a much sought after timber used for making excellent furniture.
Sal: This is a common species of several types of forests of the Northeastern region of India, extending into Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. It has bright green foliage and its canopy remains green nearly throughout the year. Sal wood is hard and durable. Sal gets a large number of seeds which are used in making cosmetics.
Mango: This has become one of our most popular horticultural species with different varieties grown all over the country.
Ficus Species: Peepal, Banyan and many other ficus species form a part of this group of important trees. They are all ecologically of great importance as many different species of insects, birds and mammals live on ficus berries. The flowers are inside the berries. They are pollinated by a specific wasp which lays its eggs inside the berries on which the larvae feed and grow. Ficus species are thus known as ‘keystone’ species in the ecosystem and support a major part of the food web in several ecosystems. Ficus trees such as Peepal and Banyan are considered sacred and are protected in India.
Neem: This species is known as Azadirachta Indica. It has been traditionally used in indigenous medicine. It has small yellow fruit. The leaves and fruit are bitter to taste. It is used extensively as an environmentally friendly insecticide. It grows extremely well in semi-arid regions and can be planted in afforestation programs where soil is poor and rainfall is low.
Tamarind: One of the best known Indian trees, it grows to a large size and is known to live for over 200 years. Its familiar fruit is a curved pod with sour pulp and contains a number of squarish seeds. The pulp in the fresh fruit is either green or red. As it ripens, it turns sticky and brown and separates from the skin. The tree is commonly cultivated as a shade tree and for its edible sour fruit which contains high concentrations of vitamin C.
Babul: This is a thorny species that is characteristic of semi arid areas of Western India and the Deccan plateau. It grows sparsely in tracts of grassland and around farms. It is used for fodder and fuelwoods. It remains green throughout the year even under the driest conditions and is browsed by wild animals and cattle.
Zizyphus: These are the typical small trees and shrubs that are found in the arid and semi arid areas of India. Z. Mauritiana and Z. Jujuba are the most frequent species. It is a favourite of frugivorous birds. The tree fruits extensively and is eaten by a variety of birds and mammals.
Tendu: It is a mid-sized, deciduous tree; common in dry deciduous forests throughout the Subcontinent. There are around 50 Indian species. Its bark exfoliates in large rectangular scales. Its branches profusely form a dense crown. The leaves are elliptical and leathery and its young leaves are extensively used for making ‘Bidis’.
Flame of the Forest (Butea Monosperma): This tree grows in many parts of India. It has bright orange flowers when it is leafless, thus it is called ‘flame of the forest’. The flowers are full of nectar which attracts monkeys and many nectar dependent birds.
Pine: There are 5 species of true pines that are found in India in the Himalayan region. The timber of these trees is frequently used in construction, carpentry and the paper industry. Pine resin is used to make turpentine, rosin, tar and pitch. Pine oils are obtained by distillation of leaves and shoots. Pine leaves are thin and needle-like
Cycas: These plants are uncommon in India and have a palm-like appearance. Cycads along with conifers make up the gymnosperms. They are among the most primitive seed plants, and have remained virtually unchanged through the past 200 million years. There are five species found in India, mostly in high rainfall areas.
Drosera: This is a small insectivorous plant, usually 5 or 6cms in height, which has tiny hair which secrete a sticky droplet of fluid on which insects get stuck. The leaf winds around the struggling insect which is then slowly digested.
Grasses: Grasses form the second largest group of flowering plants in the world. They are a very important group of plants as they are used for various purposes such as making fiber, paper, thatching material for roofs, oil, gum, medicines and many other useful products. The economically important grasses include sugarcane, bamboo and cereals like rice, wheat, millets, maize, etc. Grasses are important as they provide fodder for domestic animals.
Bamboo: This is a group of large grasslike species that grow as a clump to great heights in many forests of India. It is extremely useful and is used for constructing huts and making several useful household articles in rural areas such as baskets, farm implements, fences, household implements, matting, etc. The young shoots are used as food. It is extensively used in the pulp and paper industry as a raw material. Bamboos flower after more than two decades. The plant then dies. The flowering produces thousands of seeds which results in the slow augmentation of the bamboo. Bamboo is a favorite food of elephants and other large herbivores of the forest such as gaur and deer.