Pitchandikulam Forest Virtual Herbarium

pitchandikulam_herbariumWe are delighted to introduce our new virtual herbarium, a unique online catalogue of plants from our region, including local, vulnerable and sometimes endangered species from the native evergreen forests of the coastal area of Tamil Nadu, as well as other widespread species of the Indian subcontinent.

Since the summer of 2014, Irène and Nicolas Lagarrigue have been collecting, photographing, scanning and cataloguing dozens of plants from Pitchandikulam  Forest of Auroville, and presenting  them all beautifully  on their user-friendly website.

Unlike many other virtual herbaria, which use photographs of their existing collections, samples of which can be decades old, often discoloured and degraded, Pithandikulam Herbarium uses fresh specimens, briefly flattened and then scanned immediately in high definition, in order to conserve their natural colours and texture. This creates exquisite, vivid images which allow us to fully appreciate the intricate beauty of plants and to discover them more intimately.

For each plant specimen, detailed botanical information is provided, including nomenclature, description, phenology, reproduction and dispersal, as well details of plant ecology, distribution, relevance for ecosystems, conservation status and propagation and planting advice.

Another unique feature of this herbarium is that, in addition to the detailed scientific data, it offers additional ethnobotanical information on the human uses of plants for food, crafts and medicines, including “Dravya Guna – Ayurvedic Pharmacology” written by Dr Bérengère Bérieau, as well as some of the vibrant beliefs and rituals that reflect the deeper meanings people in this area attach to particular plants.

And finally, the herbarium also includes a glossary of all the most important botanical terms in use today, as well as the visual glossary of leaf and flower structures, offering a simple and accessible introduction to botany and plant identification for those new to the field. For those who wish to study further, there is a useful bibliography of books, articles and other resources.

Pitchandikulam Herbarium is a work in progress- with hundreds of species to photograph and catalogue, and with each plant captured in different seasons in order to present plant parts at different stages of development- seeds, flowers, fruits etc it can take up to a year to collect all the visual material needed. So far 50 plant species are available to view and learn about, with new species added continuously. Join our mailing list to get the latest updates.

We hope that this herbarium will become an invaluable resource for anyone who is interested in the plant life of India, and of the unique and endangered tropical dry evergreen forest of Auroville’s immediate surroundings in particular, and that it may inspire all of us to appreciate and safeguard our beautiful and fragile forests.

We need your help to continue our work and complete this unique herbarium for everyone to enjoy and learn from. If you wish to donate please contact us on virtual.herbarium@gmail.com

Pitchandikulam Virtual Herbarium can be found here http://www.pitchandikulam-herbarium.org


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