A Treasure Trove of Nature

Meghalaya is a treasure trove of Nature, with its richly varied and dense endemic, exotic and cultivated flora. Nature, in its generous abundance, had bestowed on Meghalaya a unique array of vegetation, ranging from tropical and sub-tropical to temperate or near temperate. This is due to the diverse topography, varied and abundant rainfall and differential climatic and edaphic conditions of the State, within small regions.. Biotic factors have also played an important role, at places decisive.

Geographical position of Meghalaya has it appears favoured immigration and introduction of different plant species from the neighbouring states of the North Eastern India and also countries like China, Tibet and Burma.

Geological factors, like the connection of Meghalaya with the land masses of Peninsular India, the Pacific Islands, Madagaskar and some other portions of Africa might also have influenced Meghalaya's flora and fauna to some extent.

Depending on the varied scales of rainfall at different parts of the year and at different altitudes and places, both tropical and temperate vegetation occur in Meghalaya. The following four classes of Agro-climatic zones are found:

1. The Upper Hill region from 1200 metre to 1500 metre in altitude and above

2. The Middle Hill region from 600 metre to 1200 metre high

3. The Lower Hill region between 300 metre and 600 metre in altitude

4. The Terai or Plain region upto 300 metre from Sea Level

   The Plant World

    The genetic constitutions of different plants or life forms can be classified as below:

  • Parasites and Epiphytes
  • Succulent Plants
  • Trees and Shrubs known as Phanerophytes
  • Tall trees
  • Medium trees
  • Small trees
  • Shrubs
  • Undershrubs or Herbs
  • Plants with buds deeply buried in the soil
  • Annual Herbs
  • Water and Marsh plants

     In Meghalaya, all the above classes of plant life are found to occur naturally, constituting its rich and varied natural vegetation.

A Botanical Wonder

Meghalaya's endemic Pitcher Plant or Nepenthes khasiana Hk. remains till now an explicable phenomenon to the botanists. It occurs in the Jarain area of the Jaintia Hills and the Baghmara area of the Garo Hills. The people in the Khasi Hills where the plant grows call it Tiew-Rakot, which means demon-flower or devouring-plant. The Jaintias call it Kset Phare, Kset means net with a lid and Phare means fly. The Garos call the plant Memang-Koksi, which literally means the basket of the devil. The most interesting part of the Pitcher Plant is its leaf. The leaf is modified into different organs, such as the lamina, the tendril, the pitcher and the lid. Over the pitcher, a lid is formed. It is an outgrowth on the face of the leaf near its apex. The lid grows and then become sealed over the mouth of the pitcher. When the plant attains maturity, the lid opens up. The pitcher is designed to catch insects.

The World of Orchids

Meghalaya is a storehouse of richly varied and colorful orchids with as many as 325 species, which grow all over the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo Hills in the meadows, hill-slopes and swamps, even on the wayside. Orchids are found in Meghalaya growing at different heights, mostly on trees, on mossy rocks and also on the ground. Meghalaya is rightly called a Land of Orchids.

D├ęcor Plants

     The forests of Meghalaya are treasure house of valuable products such a timber, fuelwood, fodder, resin, tannin, gums, shellac, fibre, latex, essential oils, fats, edible fruits, honey and a large number of medicinal plants. Meghalaya is well known for bay leaves and cinnamon. Morus alba, Quercus semiserrata and a number of other tree species play a vital role in the economy of the State, being the host plants for rearing of silk worms for sericulture. Meghalayans in general are fond of decorating their courtyards with seasonal flowers and one comes across Dahlia, Canna, Gladiolus, Begonia, Tropaeolum, Aster, Polargonium, Antirrhinum, Crinum, Celosia, Kniphofia, Impatiens, Chrysanthemum, Petunias, Pansy, Calendula, Sweet peas and Salvia. Meany climbers like Bougainvillea, Rosa, Jasminum, etc are quite common. Multiplicity of orchids like Phaius, Dendrobium and Cymbidium spp. are also cultivated.

Money Spinning Plants

           The forests of Meghalaya are a rich source of timber. The State as such is surplus in timber production and the bulk of timber for trade originates from private forests. Timber trade forms an integral and vital element in the economy of Meghalaya. Some of the important tree species, which yield valuable timber for trade are Khasi Pine, Sal, Teak, Bamboos.

In Meghalaya forests the rubber-yielding plant of Ficus elastica Roxb. belonging to the family of Moraceae is common.

Lac and Gum are obtained from forests in Meghalaya.

Meghalayan forests offer tremendous scope for sericulture or silk worm rearing industry.

Meghalaya is famous for its honey, derived mostly from forests in beehives. Nowadays, honey is being collected in artificial boxes also, instead of hives on trees.

The major crop plants of Meghalaya are Paddy, Maize, Millets, Pulses, Potato, Jute and Mesta, Ginger, Turmeric, Black Pepper, Sugar Cane, Oil Seeds.

Both arecanut and betelvine are important cash crops of the State. Khasis are used to chew betel nuts and betel leaves since time immemorial.

The State is basically a home of many horticultural plants such as fruit bearing trees, cultivated fruit bearing plants, citrus varieties of fruits.

Vegetables are grown extensively in the central plateau of the Khasi Hills with loamy soil and also in the plains of the Garo Hills.

Recently Tea and Coffee are being grown in lands abandoned after jhuming.

Plants that Cure and Heal

Different parts of many plants growing in Meghalaya have been put to medicinal use.

Among the important and recognised medicinal plants found and cultivated in Meghalaya are Ipecac, Rauvolfia serpentina, Cinchona, Abromine, Chaulmoogra Oil, Croton Oil, Eucalyptus, Castor Oil, Chiretta, Solanum khasianum, Casearia vareca, Zanthoxylum armatum, Hedyotis scandens, Paederia foetida, Salix alba, Anacardium occidentale, Cinnamomum, Taxus baccata.