Trees in my grandma’s courtyard: Urban homestead garden

Winter is the special time of the year when we love to spend our time with our family members. This year too, we visited my grandma’s place in Guwahati, Assam. As we reached house premises, the leaning bush laden with red hibiscus welcomed us with love galore. I was so happy to see my mother waiting for us in the courtyard.

© Hibiscus flowers

The next morning, I couldn’t stop myself from reaching out to these plants and exploring. Each and every plant in the garden has memories associated, some memories fresh, while few faded away with each moment passing. In this blog, I will mention different trees in my grandmother’s courtyard. In the coming blogs, i will mention different herbs, shrubs and flowers which grow here.

© Hibiscus flowers

The mango tree has grown so big, it was only a few years ago that my grandmother planted a mango seed in the front garden. Now it has grown big, providing shade from the scorching heat, home for little birds and insects and of course the delicious mangoes.

©Big Mango tree

I was thrilled to see that the tiny sapling of the Oroxylum indicum tree that I planted in 2016 has also started fruiting. I barely believed that this tree would survive. Although this tree is reportedly endangered, vulnerable in different parts of India, it grows well in the climatic conditions of Assam. This tree was part of my research project where I was trying to conserve it in its natural environment. Looking at the majestic pods of the tree, I am happy that my research work was successful. Oroxylum is a highly medicinal forest tree species. Sometimes my mother also cooks the raw pods of the tree and it tastes delicious.

© Oroxylum indicum tree

Do you know that bananas are berries? Look at these little bananas hanging over. Very soon they will be ripe. We have a year round supply of three different species of bananas right away from the garden. The entire banana plant is useful in many ways. I love to have food in banana leaves. Also at home, they make one alkaline solution from the bole, which is locally called as Khar, it is good for stomach ailments and maintains pH balance in the stomach. They also make vegetables with banana flowers and bole.

© Banana plant
© Banana inflorescence

These tall trees are Areca nut trees. They are one of the most important trees in the homestead, home gardens in Assam. Alongside the tree grows the betel leaves. Areca nuts and betel leaves are not only mouth fresheners, they are an important part of Assamese culture and tradition. My mother and grandmother relish them quite often. But I am waiting for the little Baya birds who usually make their nests with these areca nut leaves. I still recall, that birds who tear away fine threads of these leaf blades and weave masterpiece nests, truly geniuses. Seems, mother is trying to grow some orchids on the tree bole.

© Arecanut trees

The tiny seedling of Aegle marmelos or Bel tree has also grown big and started bearing fruits. This has high medicinal significance. The tree is worshipped by people and the leaves are offered to lord Shiva.

© Aegle marmelos

The Guava tree is also laden with tiny fruits which will ripen within a few weeks. Birds, especially parakeets are eagerly waiting for them to be ripe. My son likes to play with the tiny unripe fruits from the tree which drop on the ground. By the way, Guava is also a berry.

© Guava tree

The Jackfruit tree, Annona reticulate or Soursop tree also known as Ramphal, Curry leaf tree, the Neem tree, Papaya and the Pomegranate tree, all are growing slowly and steadily in the backyard. The Pomegranate tree is flowering and very soon it will be laden with fruit.

© Jackfruit tree
© Annona reticulate or Soursop
© Curry leaf tree
©Papaya plant

There are around 11 different tree species in my grandmother’s courtyard. Nowadays, with rapid urbanization in remote cities, new apartments, multiple complexes and malls are sprawling. In the pursuit of happiness somewhere we are getting devoid of happiness as we gradually disconnect from nature. It’s a rare sight these days, to see so many trees growing in urban homesteads or home gardens. So, the modern urban landscaping and construction designs must incorporate homestead garden or urban forestry models for a better future and promote nature connections. These homestead gardens not only suffice the regular household requirements but also provide for environment and wildlife.

© Pomegranate flowers

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Butterflies of Landour 1: Indian tortoise shell butterfly

The winters have arrived on the hillside of Landour, Mussoorie, and so, the butterflies. The caterpillars who survived the harshness of the extended monsoons have finally emerged from their chrysalis and metamorphosed into beautiful butterflies. Different species of butterflies can be seen around these days fluttering over the tender flowers and greens. Their bright coloured wings bring joy and wonder to the pristine surroundings.

© Indian tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais caschmirensis)

While sitting in the garden, I could observe many butterflies busy collecting nectar and pollinating. Suddenly my eyes caught a glimpse of an Indian tortoise shell butterfly hovering over freshly bloomed marigold (Tagetus sp.) flowers. After hopping from one flower over the other it finally disappeared from my sight. I tried to capture it through my lens but couldn’t get any clear image.

© Indian tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais caschmirensis)

Aglais caschmirensis or the Indian tortoiseshell, is a species of butterfly found mostly in the Himalayan region of India. Indian tortoise shell can survive in the subzero temperature can be the cause of either freeze avoidant or freeze-tolerant. For survival in low temperatures, Insects prevent the freezing oftheir internal organs and fluids by using cryoprotectants such as polyols andsugar molecules or antifreeze proteins which helps to bind small ice particles,therefore, preventing them from expanding (Ashina, 1970).

©Indian tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais caschmirensis)

The species remains active from the beginning of summers(March) till the ending autumn (November). As the winter approaches with chilling cold and snow, the Indian tortoiseshell hibernates from December to the end of February in farmyard buildings, nearby house sheds, sheltered structures,garages or inside the tree hollows, log piles and even rock crevices. The life cycle of the Indian tortoiseshell gets completed in 31 to 44 days which comprises eggstage followed by 5 larval, pupal and adult stages depending upon the climatic conditions. The larvae of this butterfly species are monophagous and feed on Urtica dioica L., (Stinging Nettle). The Indian tortoiseshell butterfly remainsinactive during the months from December to February (Qureshi & Bhagat, 2015), when cold grips the entire Himalayan region during the winter (Riyaz and Sivasankaran, 2021)

©Sunset in the hillside, Landour, Mussoorie

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Nature shelters: Different species of Ferns on same Oak tree

While hiking in the woods today, I came across this big Oak tree. It was fascinating to observe two different species of ferns growing over moss covered bark. They were growing on the same aspect of the tree bole. The ferns were growing alongside each other but they respected each other’s boundaries. This is the season when ferns start turning brown. Yes of course, the winter season has arrived on the hillside of Landour, Mussoorie. The last stretch of ferns growing in the hillside for the year. They will again visit us in the coming year during the summer season.

©Ferns on Oak tree

The Oak trees shelter multitude biodiversity of different lifeforms. Different species of mosses, ferns, fungi, mycorrhizas, insects, birds, animals take shelter in the nook and corner of this life supporting tree. The fern on the top is the Asplenium sp. whereas the lower one is the Polypodies sp.

There is so much to learn from nature. Sometimes I think If only we could learn from nature how to coexist while respecting each other’s differences, this world will be a better place to live.

Please refer to the following articles if you want to know more about Oak trees growing in the hillside of Landour, Mussoorie.

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Forestry for Kids: Learning Soil thermodynamics in outdoor education

Thermodynamics is a topic of study in sciences which lays its foundation in the middle year education program in most of the national or international curriculums. Thermodynamics is the scientific study of the relations between heat and other forms of energy. In simple words, thermodynamics is the dynamics of the heat energy. Educators and students use ample platforms and resources to understand the topic, which also involves learning fun through fun videos and experiments. But it is an extensive topic and often the learning seems monotonous alongside classroom demonstrations. In this context, integrating the topic of thermodynamics along with outdoor education has far reaching implications. Practical and hands-on observation of thermodynamics i.e. heat transfer and heat exchange offers an experience in its own.

© Soil temperature measurement

In an attempt to integrate outdoor education with the learning of thermodynamics, the students participated in an experiment where they recorded soil temperature under different soil ecology. The study was conducted in the month of May in the hillside of Landour, Mussoorie. The students recorded soil temperature with the help of laboratory soil thermometers to find soil temperature variation at 5cm, 10 cm and 20 cm depth during nature walks. Following is the bar graph of temperature variation under different soil ecology in the hillside of Landour, Mussoorie.

There is ample scope of study of forest soil and preliminary soil temperature study is only one aspect. In an attempt to understand the topic of thermodynamics the students of middle years ventured outdoors to record soil temperatures. The soil temperature is a crucial factor to estimate soil microbial activity, plant as well as soil health also interrelation with various aspects of ecology and environment.

© Students recording soil temperature

I am not sure whether this study has been done before at middle year education program integration with outdoor education or not. Even though the students variations in soil temperature, the analysis of the data is far away from the clear picture because these experiments need recording data throughout the year. So, the present activity is a simple demonstration with which the science unit of Fire and Ice can be correlated with soil thermodynamics.

© Children recording field data

There are numerous other experiments which can be done to correlate Science units with Outdoor Education. We are all aware of the importance of nature based education in the overall well being of the child and in this regard integration of outdoor education with the basic curriculum has far reaching implications. If you want to know about the methodology, field tables or any other topics based on the topic, please feel free to contact me.

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Fairy Cup Mushrooms in the hillside of Landour, Mussoorie : Forestry for kids

After consecutive days of heavy rainfall, the bright sunny days in the hillside of Landour have finally arrived. This year extended rainy days were experienced otherwise October is usually the most adored months in the hillside.

© Sunny Day in the hillside of Landour Mussoorie

So, we decided to go for a brisk nature walk in the vicinity along with the children. Children were so engrossed with nature under warm sun. While some were busy exploring the monsoon blossoms, few were busy exploring insect hideouts and nests. It gives immense satisfaction to see little children exploring the nature with curiousity and eagerness.

©Wild Sage flowers
©Some insect nest in Oak branches

The nature never fails to surprise me and as always I was occupied in exploring the rich biodiversity. Somewhere, I feel children are naturally gifted with instincts and if properly guided they are better nature explorers than adults. I feel nature also selects only a few of us to decipher her secrets. It happened so, that one of the children was eager to show me one specimen which she identified as a mushroom. Initially, I was unsure and thought that they must be some decayed acorns lying on the forest floor. But she persisted to have a close look into them. She called her mushrooms as ‘Coconut mushrooms’ due to coconut like fibre shell of the mushroom.

©Brown haired Fairy Cup Mushrooms

Although I had severe backache, I somehow managed to get on the hill slopes where she found the mushrooms. It was lying beneath the Deodar tree among the roots. I was astonished to find Brown haired fairy Cup Mushrooms for the first time on the hillside of Landour, Mussoorie. Although the mushroom was previously reported in the 1950’s from Mussoorie, this was my first experience to see Fairy Cup Mushrooms in their natural habitat.

© Ectomycorrhizal Fairy Cup Mushrooms in the roots of Deodar Tree

Fairy Cup Mushrooms are ectomycorrhizal and are very important for the health and vigour of the trees. Ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF) are symbionts with most temperate and boreal forest trees, providing their hosts with soil nutrients and water in exchange for plant carbon. This group of fungi is involved in woody plants’ survival and growth and helps plants tolerate harsh environmental conditions.

Humaria hemisphaerica
They are goblet shaped when young, and gradually become cup-shaped and reaching widths of 2-3 cm when mature, fairly smooth; under surface densely hairy with prominent hairs that extend above the margin of the cup, brown; odour none; flesh brownish or pale, brittle. This species typically does not have a stipe although there is small abrupt base sometimes. This mycorrhizal fungus is recognized by its white inner surface and hairy brown outer surface.
Ecology: Humaria hemisphaerica grows solitary, scattered, or in groups on the ground or sometimes on rotten wood in wooded areas. It was found growing in clusters in the rhizosphere of Deodar tree (Figure A).
Specimen examined – The sample was collected from Woodstock School, Landour, Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, India, 27 September 2022, WS/HH 06
Microscopic features: Spores 20-24 x 10-12 µ; elliptical, often with somewhat flattened ends; Asci eight-spored (Kuo, 2012)
Discussion: It is commonly known as the hairy fairy cup (Arora, 1986) is a species of fungi in the family Pyronemataceae. This mycorrhizal fungus is recognized by its white inner surface and hairy brown outer surface. Previously it was reported by Thind and Sethi (1957) on dead twigs and soil under Cedrus forest in Mussoorie.
Edibility: Inedible

© Himalayan Daisies

Though a lot is known about how mushrooms can benefit humans, little attention is given to the importance of mushrooms to the forest. Although there are reports of various mushrooms from Mussoorie, meagre information is available on the diversity of mushrooms in the hillside of Landour, Mussoorie. Wild mushroom are involved in the formation of ectomycorrhizal associations with the rootlets of the trees, with both partners in the relationship helping each other in many different ways

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Wild mushrooms of Landour, Mussoorie

Autumn season has arrived on the hillside of Landour, Mussoorie as the ferns have started to turn yellowish brown. But the forest floor is still under the spell of monsoon magic as diverse mushrooms are still springing up through the forest floors. Everyday I come across these mushrooms of different, shapes, sizes and colours. Some mushrooms are edible, while some are poisonous, few are symbiotic or mycorrhizal too. Some love to grow on the rotten tree stumps, some prefer the rhizosphere of particular tree species only. Few like the rocky crevasses and few pop out from the mosses. It’s fascinating to observe them grow each day. The forests in the hillside consist mainly of Oak, Rhododendrons and intermittent Deodar and Pine. These mushrooms are sometimes mycorrhizal which are also an important component of forest ecology. They form wide networks in the rhizosphere of the forest creating a network for communication. This year the hillside is experiencing extended rainy days which is often an usual seasonal variation. The moisture and the warm humid temperature speeds up the decomposition process which is favorable for the mushrooms to flourish. I tried to capture these mushrooms and also attempted to identify them.

© Earth ball mushroom

I came across these round mushrooms over the moss covered forest floor, beneath the Ilex tree. They are called as Earth ball mushrooms (Scleroderma sp.). These are one type of poisonous mushrooms. They like to grow in acidic soils. This fungus was first described in scientific literature by Christian Hendrik Persoon in 1801. (Persoon’s Synopsis Methodica Fungorum, published in 1801, marked the starting point for taxonomy of gasteromycete fungi.)

© Earth ball mushroom (Scleroderma sp.)

While walking under the Oak trees, I came across these interesting whitish mushrooms which were growing scattered in one moss covered slope. Helvella crispa, an edible mushroom is also known as the White saddle, Elfin saddle or Common helvel. The mushroom can be identified by its irregular wafer like whitish cap, fluted stem which is elastic and fuzzy under surface. Literature says that Helvella crispa is edible but of poor quality.

© Helvella crispa
© Helvella crispa
© Helvella crispa on moss covered forest floor

I was startled by the view of this black mushroom growing on the forest slope near Rhododendron trees. At first it gave me the impression of a dead insect. This is Helvella lacunosa also known as the slate grey saddle or elfin saddle. This mushroom is considered edible by some although there are reports about the toxicity of this mushroom often leading to gastrointestinal disorders.

© Helvella lacunosa

Looks like an oyster shell, this reddish brown mushroom is a mushroom belonging to the Ganoderma genus. Ganodermas are well known for their medicinal properties. However, I am not sure whether the Ganoderma mushroom in the following picture has medicinal properties or not.

©Ganoderma sp.

The following mushroom is also known as Old man of the woods. One can easily spot this mushroom due to its typing form. The old man of the woods (Strobilomyces sp.) is a decent edible mushroom with a very striking appearance that makes it difficult to forget or mistake. I came across this mushroom for the first time naturally growing on the Oak forest floor.

© Old man of the woods (Strobilomyces sp.)

The following fungi looks like an Hygrocybe  (gilled fungi) although I am not sure.


The following fungi looks like a candy cap mushroom, I am not sure.

© Polyporus mushroom

Found this infected Polyporus mushroom growing out rotten tree stump of Chir Pine tree.

© Mycena sp.

The mushroom in the above picture belongs to the Mycena genus It is a large genus of small saprotrophic mushrooms that are rarely more than a few centimeters in width. They are characterized by a white spore print, a small conical or bell-shaped cap, and a thin fragile stem. Most are gray or brown.

© Near circular shadow of mushroom

Besides the above mentioned mushrooms I also came across various Boletes and Old man of the forest too.

© Infected mushroom
© Mushroom on tree bark
© Mushrooms in Landour, Mussoorie

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Monsoon blooms in the hillside: Landour, Mussoorie

With changing seasons in the hillside, the colour palette on the hill slopes also changes. It feels as if, with each changing season, nature changes its wardrobe. During the monsoons it is mostly pink, mauve, yellows and greens. While passing through the woods, I could see the graceful and tender Begonias have started blossoming. They bestow a pinkish hue on the hill slopes.

©Begonia picta
© Begonias on the hill slopes

The ferns already sprouted forming a lush green understory.

©Polypodiodes naponica

The mosses have coated the tree barks, rocks and pavements, awaiting the mist and the clouds to embrace it.

©Peacock or spike moss?

Mushrooms of different shapes, size and colour have also sprung up, they look like tiny buttons. Found this tiny little one peeping out of the decomposing wood on the hill slopes. Near perfect circular shadow it casted on the floor. There are wonderful shapes and forms in the nature around us.

A few steps further, the hill slopes are covered by Purple Roscoe Lily. They belong to the ginger family.

©Purple Roscoe Lily (picture source wikipedia)

I came across this little butterfly, it seems like a common four-ring to me, I am not sure.

©Common Four-ring butterfly

One can easily hear the chirping sunbirds and woodpeckers. All are very busy completing their daily chores. I must also hurry home now to complete my chores. On my way back home I came across this beautiful scenic panorama.

© Mesmeric sunset

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Verbascum thapsus or Common Mullein: A medicinally important plant of the hills

No sooner the monsoon hits the dusty hill slopes of the hillside of Landour, Mussoorie. The tiny seeds of common Mullein germinate and peek through the picturesque landscape . Commonly known as Adam’s flannel, Beggar’s blanket and even the Candlewick plant, it is a riveting sight to see this enthralling plant species blooming in the wild. It also resembles a monkey tail and locally it’s known as ‘Bandarpuchre’ . The leaves appear to me as if I am touching Goat’s ear, soft and fluffy. I call it the Goat’s ear plant.

© Verbascum thapsus flowers

One can come across Mullein growing along the roadside, agricultural lands and backyard at this altitude. The flowers are in full bloom these days. The blooming flowers spiral up the stalk emerge from the velvety rosette of leaves. Besides it’s occurrence in Mussoorie, Uttarakhand I found this plant growing in its natural habitat in the remote village of Mana near Badrinath and Gangotri also.

© Mullein growing abundantly in Mana village, Uttarakhand

According to old superstition it’s believed that witches used lamps and candles provided with wicks of Mullein in their incantations. Still in rural parts of Europe and Asia, Mullein is used to drive away evil spirits. Being a sure safeguard against evil spirits and magic, and from the ancient classics, it was this plant which Ullysess took to protect himself against the wiles of Circe.  

© Verbascum thapsus

Verbascum thapsus (L.) is a biennial, perennial or, rarely, an annual with a deep tap root. In its first year it produces a low vegetative rosette up to 60 cm in diameter which overwinters and is followed in the succeeding growing season by a stout flowering stem 5-18 dm tall. V. thapsus is native to Europe and Asia (Semenza et al. 1978). Although the leaves and flowers can be foraged, the hairy leaves can sometimes cause irritation. Some say that the seeds are poisonous. The numerous tiny seeds lay dormant in the soil and sprouts when the favorable season arrives.

© Mullein peeking through the landscape

Since ancient times V. thapsus has been used as an anodyne pectoral and remedy for coughs and diarrhoea. The leaves may provide some stimulatory effects when smoked. Mullein was recorded by Aristotle as a fish poison. It is often grown as an ornamental. A methanol extract from the plant has been effective against mosquito larvae (Gross and Werner, 1978). Mullein is currently found in neglected meadows and pasture lands, along fence rows and roadsides. It occurs in areas where the mean annual precipitation is 50 – 150 cm and the growing season is at least 140 days. Mullein is easily outcompeted in areas with a densely vegetated ground cover but readily grows in disturbed sites. Because of its low dispersal rate, the establishment of mullein in a particular site depends primarily on the presence of dormant seeds in the soils. It is an ephemeral plant which is eventually displaced by other plants in undisturbed sites. In Uttarakhand, the population of the target species is scattered. Natural products including medicinal plants have a great significance due to their wide range of therapeutic potential to treat a large number of ailments,

© Mullein growing near farmland

Ecological Threat
Once established it grows quickly to form a dense ground cover. It can overtake and displace native species. At the high densities, it appears to prevent establishment of native herbs and grasses following fires or other disturbances. Verbascum thapsus occurs in areas with an average annual precipitation of 20-60 in. (0.5-1.5 m) and a 140-day growing season. It prefers well-drained soils with pH 6.5 to 7.8. It prefers dry sandy soils but can grow in chalk and limestone. It can be found in neglected meadows, forest openings, pastures, fence rows, roadsides, and industrial areas. Verbascum thapsus has the ability to adapt to a variety of site conditions. It grows more vigorously than native herbs and shrubs. V. thapsus threatens natural meadows and forest openings. It is a prolific seed bearer with seeds remaining viable for long periods in the soil.

© Verbascum thapsus in its natural habitat

Mullein has been used as an alternative medicine for centuries, and in many countries throughout the world, the value of Great Mullein as a proven medicinal herb is now backed by scientific evidence. Some valuable constituents contained in Mullein are Coumarin and Hesperidin, they exhibit many healing abilities. An infusion is taken internally in the treatment of a wide range of chest complaints and also to treat diarrhoea and bleeding of the lungs and bowels. Mullein oil is a very medicinal and valuable destroyer of disease germs. An infusion of the flowers in olive oil is used as earache drops, or as a local application in the treatment of piles and other mucous membrane inflammations.

© Somewhere near Mana village, Alaknanda river

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Nature walk with kids: Forestry for kids

It’s monsoon in the hillside and life is bustling in the woods. The ferns which went dormant are budding, mosses and fungi mushrooming everywhere, insects are busy finding shelter, along with diverse rainy day bird visitors. I thought it was a great time to familiarise children with these minute nature’s theatricals. Moreover, the children are mostly inside classrooms taking lessons, so going out was a good idea.

©Trees laden with fresh ferns

Children came across this mushroom, which bloomed out of an old tree stump. It seems like a Polyporus mushroom to me. But looking at its appearance, I really don’t want to check whether it is edible or not.

© Polyporus mushroom
© Polyporus mushroom
© Polyporus mushroom

Someone was really trying hard to crossover the mossy wall before it rains again. The snail with elongated shell uses its mucus and protruded eyes to travel long distances. They mostly hide underground in winters.

©Snail with elongated shell

The horse chestnut tree has started bearing fruits. It was laden with beautiful flowers before the summer break. I wonder who feeds on its fruits, I will be on the look out.

© Fruits of Horse Chestnut tree

A couple of Gray winged Blackbird are also on the lookout for food on the forest floor beneath the Horse Chestnut tree. How diligently it turns over each leaf litter and twigs to search insects. It seems that they might have made a nest somewhere nearby. The male Gray blackbird was eager and alert to protect its territory. The female gently made poise. We respected their territory and stepped back.

© Female Gray winged Blackbird

Although we wanted to explore more, it started drizzling and time was a constraint, so we made our way back to the classroom, only to explore nature more in the coming days.

© Hillside pathway
©A misty day in the Hillside

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Ganga Tulsi, Gangotri: homonym or different species?

Tulsi, an aromatic medicinal plant finds its special place in Hinduism. It is often said that the worship of lord Vishnu is incomplete without Tulsi. But the species of Tulsi used for worshipping the deity varies from place to place. Be it the famous Vrindavan, Badrinath or Gangotri, the variants of Tulsi vary altogether. Mostly Ocimum tenuiflorum or Ocimum sanctum L. belonging to the family Lamiaceae is used as holy basil, however in Badrinath, Badri Tulsi (Origanum vulgare) forms an important part of offerings to the lord. In Gangotri, twigs of Ganga Tulsi (Artemisa acrorum Ledeb. now A. gmelinii Web. ex Stechm): Russian Wormwood, ‘Ganga Tulsi’, ‘Chamra’, ‘Kala-purcha’ is used to worship the goddess.

© Badrinath temple
© Gaṅgōtrī temple

Tulsi, a sacred plant in Hinduism is also considered as the manifestation of goddess Tulsi. The leaves of the plant are essential in the worship of lord Vishnu. It is native to the Indian subcontinent and widespread as a cultivated plant throughout the Southeast Asian countries. However, at altitudes beyond 10,000 ft it’s difficult for O. tenuiflorum to flourish but various species of Oreganum sp. and Artemisa sp. are ecologically adapted to survive in these temperate climatic zones.

©Artemisa acrorum Ledeb. now A. gmelinii Web. ex Stechm): Russian Wormwood, ‘Ganga Tulsi’, ‘Chamra’, ‘Kala-purcha’

Due to ecological and climatic variations, it is difficult to cultivate Ocimum tenuiflorum or Ocimum sanctum L. at high altitudes, hence, the locally available medicinally important aromatic plant species are preferred to worship the deities.

© Landscape near Gaṅgōtrī

Ganga Tulsi’, ‘chamra’, ‘Kala-purcha’ herb is usually 0.5-0.9 m. high found in the dry alpine region from 2300-3000 m. In Malari and Niti the herb is used as incense and also offered to the local deities. The leaf twig is offered in Gangotri temple and is known as ‘Ganga Tulsi’.

© Bhagirathi river in Gangotri

The essential oil and chemical constituents of Ganga Tulsi mainly comprise of limonene (45.6%), borneol (11.1%), farnesol (9.2%),thujyl alcohol(9.0%), geranyl acetate (6.9%), α-pinene (6.5%), nerol(3.6%), thujone (2.8%), thujyl acetate (0.9%),cineole (0.2%) Shah [19] and (Annual Report CIMAP, 1983-84). Due to meagre conservation efforts the plant species is facing threat in its natural habitat due to over extraction. During the course of my visit to Gaṅgōtrī, i could see that littering plastics is a serious concern. Eupatorium species is also slowly paving its way to dominate the forest floor. Significant adoption of conservation measures to protect the biodiversity and landscape is eminent in the region. My humble request to the tourists to travel responsibly to protect the sanctity of the ecosystem in the upper reaches of the Himalayas.

© Bhagirathi river in Gangotri
© Bhagirathi river near Gaṅgōtrī

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