[Photo Essay] A Walk In The Woods Where The Wildflowers Grow

Forests of peninsular India occurring in the Deccan region are also called 'maidan forests'. They include ecologically-sensitive grasslands called "kavals", which are unfortunately considered wastelands whose conservation is not accorded the same priority as forests.

Despite heavy deforestation, high human population density and the loss of more than 80 percent of the forests of the region, the Deccan Plateau continues to retain some of its biodiversity wealth. One finds many ornamental trees and shrubs with nutritious, wild, edible fruits, some of which are introduced in this article.

The magnificent floral structure in these forests supports a wide range of unique fauna: endangered blackbucks, leopards, bears, wolves, foxes, Rusty spotted cats, Long billed vultures, Lesser floricans and Great Indian Bustards.

Threats to these forests come largely from anthropogenic activities such as overgrazing, forest fires, poaching, and extraction of timber and other forest produce. Earnest conservation efforts are called for if these fragile natural ecosystems are to be preserved.

  Mallotus philippensis  (ಕುಂಕುಮದ ಮರ) has fruits bearing a red powdery coating on surface.

Mallotus philippensis (ಕುಂಕುಮದ ಮರ) has fruits bearing a red powdery coating on surface.

 Ixora pavetta (ಗೊರವಿ) is a dry evergreen ornamental species with fragrant flowers. Its fruits are fed on by birds and sloth bears.

Ixora pavetta (ಗೊರವಿ) is a dry evergreen ornamental species with fragrant flowers. Its fruits are fed on by birds and sloth bears.

  Shorea roxburghii  (ಜಾಲಾರಿ) occurs gregariously in the forests of Mysuru and Bengaluru. The trees flower during Shivarathri, filling the forest air with their strong fragrance.

Shorea roxburghii (ಜಾಲಾರಿ) occurs gregariously in the forests of Mysuru and Bengaluru. The trees flower during Shivarathri, filling the forest air with their strong fragrance.

  Bombax ceiba  (ಕೆಂಪು ಬುರುಗ) is commonly called the Red Silk Cotton Tree for its red flowers and fruits which are full of cotton-like fibres. This is an important tree for birds and pollinators. 

Bombax ceiba (ಕೆಂಪು ಬುರುಗ) is commonly called the Red Silk Cotton Tree for its red flowers and fruits which are full of cotton-like fibres. This is an important tree for birds and pollinators. 

  Buchanania axillaris (ಮರಡಿ ಮರ ) is endemic to the forests of Chitradurga, Kolar, Mysore and Tumkur. Its sour-sweet fruits are edible by humans and birds.

Buchanania axillaris (ಮರಡಿ ಮರ) is endemic to the forests of Chitradurga, Kolar, Mysore and Tumkur. Its sour-sweet fruits are edible by humans and birds.

  Madhuca indica  (ಕಾಡು ಇಪ್ಪೆ) is more popularly known by its Hindi name, Mahua/ Mohwa. Beverages are fermented/ distilled from its fallen flowers in central and northern parts of India. Madhuca longifolia, however is the related South Indian species which is planted widely in rural parts of Karnataka.

Madhuca indica (ಕಾಡು ಇಪ್ಪೆ) is more popularly known by its Hindi name, Mahua/ Mohwa. Beverages are fermented/ distilled from its fallen flowers in central and northern parts of India. Madhuca longifolia, however is the related South Indian species which is planted widely in rural parts of Karnataka.

  Gardenia gummifera  (ಬಿಕ್ಕೆ) is a dryland ornamental shrub with mildly fragrant flowers and sweet fruits edible by humans and birds.

Gardenia gummifera (ಬಿಕ್ಕೆ) is a dryland ornamental shrub with mildly fragrant flowers and sweet fruits edible by humans and birds.

  Cycas swamyii (  ಮೊಂಡಿಚ್ಳು)  is an ancient example of evolution in flora. It is an ornamental species but more needs to be known about its ecology to allow for in-situ and ex-situ conservation of this endangered tree.

Cycas swamyii (ಮೊಂಡಿಚ್ಳು) is an ancient example of evolution in flora. It is an ornamental species but more needs to be known about its ecology to allow for in-situ and ex-situ conservation of this endangered tree.

  Gardenia latifolia  (ಕಾಡು ಬಿಕ್ಕೆ) is an ornamental treelet bearing mildly fragrant flowers which bloom around February. Its fruits last for most part of the year and feed birds and other fauna. Birds sense their ripening and devour most of these seeds and disperse them. The sweet fruits are also enjoyed by humans. Kaadu Bikke is common in the dry forests of Dharwad, Belgaum, Bijapur, Bellary and Tumkur. As its Latin name indicates, this tree is an ideal ornamental one for rural and urban planting.

Gardenia latifolia (ಕಾಡು ಬಿಕ್ಕೆ) is an ornamental treelet bearing mildly fragrant flowers which bloom around February. Its fruits last for most part of the year and feed birds and other fauna. Birds sense their ripening and devour most of these seeds and disperse them. The sweet fruits are also enjoyed by humans. Kaadu Bikke is common in the dry forests of Dharwad, Belgaum, Bijapur, Bellary and Tumkur. As its Latin name indicates, this tree is an ideal ornamental one for rural and urban planting.

  Firmiana colorata  (ಬಿಳಿಸುಳಿಗೆ) is otherwise called Bonfire tree for its blazing scarlet blossoms. The tree flowers in February, after it has shed all its leaves.

Firmiana colorata (ಬಿಳಿಸುಳಿಗೆ) is otherwise called Bonfire tree for its blazing scarlet blossoms. The tree flowers in February, after it has shed all its leaves.

  Cochlospernum religiosum  (ಅರಿಶಿನ ಬುರುಗ) or Yellow Silk Cotton Tree in English. It is a short ornamental tree with showy, bright yellow, mildly fragrant flowers.

Cochlospernum religiosum (ಅರಿಶಿನ ಬುರುಗ) or Yellow Silk Cotton Tree in English. It is a short ornamental tree with showy, bright yellow, mildly fragrant flowers.

Sheshadri is a passionate citizen scientist who has excellent knowledge about trees and biodiversity conservation. His forté is species identification, seed sprouting techniques, nursery management and land restoration by conserving floral species. He has worked with his mentor, Mr S.G. Neginhal (I.F.S. Retd) for over 15 years and raised tens of thousands of indigenous tree species from seed stage to full growth.