India's unidentified medicinal plants diversity estimated

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TOI: Around four lakh species of plants and animals in the country are yet to be identified, as many biodiversity-rich areas remain inaccessible, said M Sanjappa, director of Botanical Survey of India.

According to Sanjappa, the plant taxonomy (finding, describing, classifying, identifying, and naming) by scientists and researchers is in process. However, it will take years to report on all the species due to the inaccessibility of places, and because of this, utilisation of plants, too, remains unexplored.

While delivering the GB Deodikar Memorial lecture on Floristic diversity of India’ at the Agharkar Research Institute on Wednesday, Sanjappa said there are 1.27 lakh species of plants, animals and microbes in the country. About 33 per cent of the higher plant species are endemic (native to a particular place). “There are a number of species in different groups. For example, there are 17, 588 species of angiosperms, of which 5,725 are endemic. The three megacentres of endemism are Western Ghats, eastern Himalaya and western Himalaya,” he said.

Sanjappa pointed out that threatened and endangered species also cause concern. Despite the rules and regulations, poaching is rampant with wild species hunted and sold in the market.

About medicinal plants, he said there are approximately 17,500 species of flowering plants that are used in traditional system of medicine in the country. “We are not able to screen all these species. For example, tribal medicines use 8,000 species, unani uses 700 species, ayurveda uses 9000 and siddha uses 800 species, whereas in modern medicine, only 30 plant species are used,” he said.

Sanjappa stressed that there are invaluable reserve of economically important species and genetic resources. India is one of the 18 megadiversity centres with four hot spots, and the seventh largest in the world encompassing a varied landscapes rich in natural resources.

The range of diversity comprises of ecosystem diversity, species diversity and genetic diversity. About 1,500 wild edible plant species are used by villagers. There are 3,000 medicinal species, of which 85 per cent are wild, Sanjappa said.

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