Department of Science and Technology, Lakshadweep

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THE GENERAL FLORA OF THE ISLANDS 

            A few attempts have been made to describe the flora of the I,akshadweep group of  islands (Gardiner, 1906, Prain, lt390, 1894, Sivaprasad and Sivadas, 1975). Many plants of economic importance are cultivated here.  Banana, Vazha (Musa paradisiaca),  colocasia, Chembu (Colocassia antiquorum),  Chilli, Pachamulaku (Capsicum Annum),  Kattu patavalam (Trichosanthes cucumerina) and  Cucumber, Vellarikka (Cucumis sativus) etc.  are grown in the agricultural farm maintained by the Administration and also in many of the private kitchen gardens. Drumstick Moringakkai (Moringa Oleifera), Bread fruit, Chakka (Artocarpus incisa), Badam (Terminalia catappa) are seen growing widely. In some of the shrub jungles plants like Kanni (Scaevola koenigii), Premna integufolia, Punna (Calophyllum inophyllum),  Screwpine,  Kaitha (Pandanus odoratissimus)  and Morinda citrifolia are seen growing. Chavok (Casuarina equisetifolia), elanthapazham (Zizyphus jujuba) and Cheerani  (Thespesia  populnea)  are  distributed  unevenly throughout the islands. Tamara  (Tournefortia  argentea) and Cheruthalam (Pemphis acidula) are seen mostly growing on the lagoon side of the island. Peral (Ficus bengalensis) are seen in some of the islands and can be dated back to many years of existence. The ground vegetation consists of plants like mulli (Spinifex squarrosus), Enolvulus alsinoibes, Argemone mexicana, patala (Ipomaea biloba), Kattucheera (Aerva lanata), Poovan pullu  (Alysicarpus monilifer) Commelina bengalensis etc. The mulli (Spinifex  squarrosus) and Ipomaea biloba are seen mostly growing in the uninhabited localities of the islands. Herbs  like  Kyllinga monocephala and Setaria italica have an extensive coverage in most of the islands. Pacha (Blumea membranacea) and Chakkarapullu (Stachytarpheta india) are seen distributed in many points of the islands.  Some of the decorature plants occuring in public places, parks and in front of offices and residences are arippoo (Lantana camara) and Katalas  poovu (Bougainvillaea spectabills), Codiaeum variegatum, quamoclit pinnata, chembaruthi (Hibiscus rosasinensis), Cosmos sulphureus, ara]i (Nerium odorum), Pedilanthus tithymaloids etc.

It appears that attempts have been made to cultivate paddy, nellu (Orysa sativa) in some of the islands.  The information collected from the islanders corroborates well with the evidence of the soil removed from certain areas to make paddy fields.

The common crop of economic importance is the Coconut, TIhenga (Cocos  nucifera). Two varieties are grown here. The common tall  variety  and the endemic  micro variety. The micro variety is small and is under 5 to 6 feet in height. The yield is very high though the size of the fruit is comparatively small. The   Copra   obtained from these coconuts contain a high oil content when compared to the ordinary variety.  Some of the islanders  are cultivating Pipernigrum, the common pepper  (Kurrumulagu) and tapioca marakkilangu (Manihot utilissima) in their private lands.  vettila (Piper betel) and Kavungu (Areca catechu) are two other favourite plants of the islanders grown for the betel leaves and areca nut respectively.

It is evident from   comparing the previous   records ((gardiner, 1906) that new   plants are being  introduced, Plants like Poovanpullu (Alysicarpus monilifer), Crotalariafisonii, Codiaeum variegatum, Cephalandra indica, Cosmos sulphureus, Spilanthes acmella,  quamoclit pinnata  have been introduced recently

            The lagoon of most of the islands show an extensive bed of sea grass adjacent to the beaches. Two major plants constituting the sea grass are Thalassia hemprichii and Cymodocea isoerifolia. These plants act as a protection to the beaches preventing erosion and movement of the beach sediment. Wherever these plants are not grown erosion has been observed to take place to a certain extent. Besides, Thalassia hemprichii is found to be a major food for the adult turtles and hence the common name 'turtle grass'.

Algae of economic importance

Looking from the point of marine resources the lagoons and the adjacent areas of Lakshadweep are found to have algae of great economic importance. Although the  distribution of these economically important algae is sporadic in the lagoons, there is every possibility that extensive beds exist in the shallow area of the sea adjoining the islands. The results of the preliminary survey on the economically important algae  present in the lagoons and their commercial uses are presented in the following table.

Genus
Food stuff
Material for Agar
Material for Algin
Medicinal uses
Fertilizer
Cattle & Poultry feed
Ulva
Enteromorpha
Codium
+
+
+
   
+
+
 
+
+
+
Laminaria
Turbinaria
Sargassum
Padina
+
+
+
+
 
+
+
+
+
+
+
+
Gelidium
Gracilaria
Hypnea
Ceramium
+
+
+
+
+
+
+
 
+
   

 


Artocarpus incisa

Coconut tree

Pappaya

Casurina trees near Secretariate

Micro variety of Coconut

Moringa Oleifera

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