Herb Species Richness of Pune City Habitats

Anagha Ranade

13, Chintan, Gokul Society, near Mhatre Bridge, Navi Peth, Pune, 411 030.


INTRODUCTION

Herbs are seasonal plants without woody tissues. Herbs as a group are omnipresent, inhabiting all types of habitats and localities. The herbaceous flora of Pune environs is well documented sinse long (Razi, 1951) but it contains no analysis of the distribution across habitat types and localities except for the modest attempts regarding aquatic plants by Ghate and Vartak (1981). This note thus explores the distribution of species richness across habitat types with focus on Katraj hills, besides looking at the sharing of the flora by hills and the city habitats. The term herb is used in a broad sense here, reflecting all non-tree flowering plants, which include shrubs and climbers.

METHODOLOGY

The flora of Katraj Ghats (Vartak, 1960) is used as the baseline document as it is estimated to cover much of the wild flora in the Pune city environs. National Defense Academy (NDA), Khadakwasla and Sinhagad hills have about twice and thrice the rainfall respectively while the latter boasts over two times the elevation. Thus, NDA and Sinhagad may harbour some moisture loving species not recorded from Katraj but their floristic records are limited (Santapau, 1951). This note focuses on the immediate neighbourhood of Pune city to explore the pattern of species sharing across the hillocks and the urbanised areas. Based on descriptions and filed visits, the distribution remarks from Katraj flora (Vartak, 1960) were assigned to following habitat types in the decreasing order of human influence:-

  1. Spur, Ghat, Ravine, Base:- Forest/scrub (low human impact)

  2. Hedges:- thickets and fences (medium human impact)

  3. Village, Garden, Roadside:- Human dwellings (high human influence)

  4. Grassland and sandy soils:- (low human impact)

  5. Stream, stream bank, tank, pond, waterlogged soil:- Riparian

The species richness i.e. number of species recorded from each of these habitat types was enumerated with minor modifications from field observations. Secondly, the degree of sharing of species between Katraj, Pachagaon (Kulkarni et al, 1989), Law College hills (Kumbhojkar et al, 2000) and the Ganeshkhind campus (Varadpande, 1974) is estimated, the last being more human influenced than others. We could access only the analysis (Vartak, 1959) but not the species list of the flora of Fergusson College campus and hills, which could have given a batter understanding of species thriving or even flourishing under pronounced human influence. As for aquatic plants, Ghate and Vartak (1981) provide a comprehensive baseline document for the Pune environs is as Katraj flora mentions only a few of them. The aspect of distribution of the species therein across habit classes and localities is touched here.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

The herb flora of Pune environs is estimated to consist of about 600 species. Table 1 depicts five most dominant families and their species richness, which immulates the broader floristic pattern (Vartak, 1960). Sme species like Brassica juncea, Linum usitatissium, Sesamum indicum etc. inhabit all localities while those confined to wilderness localities like Katraj include Impatiens balsamina, Raphanus sativus. Prominent escapes from cultivation, now naturalised in wilderness zones include Cosmos bipinnatus. Many herbs have medicinal value and some are even highly harvested such as Asparagus racemosus, Curculigo orchidoided, Gloriosa superba and even weeds like Mimosa pudica.

Herb species constitute over two third of the total flora in low impact areas like Katraj hills while just the half in high impact zones like Fergusson college (Vartak, 1959). Nearly half the herb species from the Katraj flora inhabit Pachgaon, Law College and Vetal hills while Ganeshkhind area shelters over two thirds. Interestingly, other hills around Pune hardly shelter any species not recorded from Katraj though Ganeshkhind area harbours few such species, primarily exotic cultivars. Each of these areas harbour over 300-400 species i.e. two thirds the species richness of Katraj. Fergusson College is reported to have sheltered over 600 species (Vartak, 1959). Thus, while human influence appears to markedly alter species composition, species richness is maintained or even enhanced.

Table 2 indicates that nearly half the species inhabit human influenced areas like gardens, fields, roadside etc. Less than a tenth of the species are cultivated while just over a tenth are weeds, primarily exotic. The wilderness (forest, scrub, grasslands, riparian) preferring species constitute just less than two thirds the flora of Katraj, some of them also thriving under human influenced habitats as above.

Table 3 shows that the Mutha river harbours over 80% of the aquatic flowering plants recorded from Pune city environs, while seasonal puddles host lowest species richnes, about a quarter of those found in the Mutha river. Amongst perennial stagnant waterbodies, Pashan lake hosts the most species while Padmavati pool the least. About a third species also colonise abandoned quarries.

The nature of changes in herbaceous flora are hardly studied, primarily due to difficulties in fixing the location of given species. Nevertheless, Joshi et al (1992) mention the loss of 30 species from Vetal hills in Pune city, of which over three fourths are herbaceous, causing concern. While the authors fix the blame of local extinction of species on the biotic factors such as grazing, the role of encroachments by development projects like housing colonies and roads needs exploration. There has been public concern about loss of rare species, particularly herbs that tend to be ignored, such as Ipomoea sp. along the river bank at Vitthalwadi due to so called development (Ingalhallikar, 2000).

REFERENCES

Ghate V. S. and Vartak, V. D. 1981. Studies on the aquatic flowering plants from Greater Pune area. Part I. Enumeration. Jr. Poona Univ. (Sci. & Tech.) 54: 121-129.

Ingalhallikar S. 2000. Development or environmental destruction? (Vern.). Sakal (Disha). 27 November. p1.

Joshi V. N., Kumbhojkar M. S. and Kulkarni D. K. 1992. Changing floristic pattern of Chatushringi-Vetal plateau near Pune- A comparative study. Jr. Econ. Tax. Bot. 16 (1): 133-139.

Kulkarni D. K., Kumbhojkar, M. S. and Vartak V. D. 1989. Floristic studies on the Pachgaon Parvati hill near Pune. Jr. Econ. Tax. Bot. 13(1): 117-155.

Razi, B. A. 1951. Some aspects of vegetation of Poona and neighbouring districts. Jr. Poona Univ. (Sci. & Tech.) 1(2): 1-57.

Santapau H. 1951. A contribution to the flora Simhgad hill, Poona district. Poona Agri. Coll. Mag. 41(4): 270-284.

Varadpande, D. G. 1974. The flora of Ganeshkhind, Poona. Jr. Poona Univ. (Sci. & Tech.) 44: 97-133.

Vartak V. D. 1959. The flora of the Fergusson College Campus, Poona District. Fergusson College Magazine. 50(2): 1-4.

Vartak. V. D. 1960. The study of the flora of the Katraj Ghat. Jr. Poona Univ. (Sci. & Tech.) 22: 85-117.

Vartak. V. D. 1960. The arboreal flora of the Poona Corporation Campus. Jr. Poona Univ. (Sci. & Tech.) 44: 97-133.


Table 1 Most dominant families in herb flora of Pune city

FAMILY

NO. OF SPP.

Poaceae

100

Asteraceae

60

Cyperaceae

40

Fabaceae

30

Mimosaceae

20


Table 2 Habitat-wise distribution of flowering plants at Katraj hills

HABITAT TYPE

% OF TOTAL (510) SPP.

Forest/scrub

30

Hedges

6

Habitation

40

Grassland

15

Riparian

15


Table 3 Habit-wise distribution of aquatic flowering plants species richness

Habit

Mutha River

Pashan Lake

Bhosari Tank

Katraj Reservoir

Padmavati Pond

Monsoon puddles

Quarry Ponds

Aquatic

8

8

5

4

4

2

3

Attached floating

3

4

3

0

2

0

0

Free Floating

5

1

2

0

1

2

1

Amphibious

15

10

7

8

4

3

5

Marshy

43

34

29

31

20

13

19

Submerged

6

6

3

0

0

2

3

Wetland

22

16

12

12

8

6

15

TOTAL

102

79

61

55

39

28

46


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