Journal of Threatened Taxa | | 26 February 2016 | 8(2): 8452–8487



Flora of Fergusson College campus, Pune, India: monitoring changes over half a century


Ashish N. Nerlekar 1, Sairandhri A. Lapalikar 2, Akshay A. Onkar 3, S.L. Laware 4 & M.C. Mahajan 5


1,2,3,4,5 Department of Botany, Fergusson College, Pune, Maharashtra 411004, India

1,2 Current address: Department of Biodiversity, M.E.S. Abasaheb Garware College, Pune, Maharashtra 411004, India

1 (corresponding author), 2, 3, 4, 5






Editor: N.P. Balakrishnan, Retd. Joint Director, BSI, Coimbatore, India. Date of publication: 26 February 2016 (online & print)


Manuscript details: Ms # 1950 | Received 17 April 2015 | Final received 10 February 2016 | Finally accepted 11 February 2016


Citation: Nerlekar, A.N., S.A. Lapalikar, A.A. Onkar, S.L. Laware & M.C. Mahajan (2016). Flora of Fergusson College campus, Pune, India: monitoring changes over half a century. Journal of Threatened Taxa 8(2): 8452–8487;


Copyright: © Nerlekar et al. 2016. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. JoTT allows unrestricted use of this article in any medium, reproduction and distribution by providing adequate credit to the authors and the source of publication.


Funding: Partially funded by College with Potential for Excellence grants (under UGC) awarded to the Department of Botany, Fergusson College, Pune.


Conflict of Interest: The authors declare no competing interests.


Author Details: Ashish Nerlekar is interested in urban biodiversity, plant taxonomy, ecology and is currently working on the ecology of a threatened plant Jatropha nana. Sairandhri Lapalikar is pursuing studies focusing on plant community ecology and is currently working on the characterization of microhabitats of the rock-outcrops around Lonavala, Maharashtra. Akshay Onkar studies the ethnobotany and flora of eastern Maharashtra and is also interested is socio-political aspects of conservation and biodiversity. Shankar Laware incorporates interdisciplinary approach in research, and has come up with several novel applications. Minakshi Mahajan is interested in angiosperm taxonomy and has worked on extensive documentation of the arboreal flora of Fergusson College campus.


Author Contribution: ANN, SAL conceived the study and collated data. ANN, AAO, SAL, SLL conducted field work, SLL and MCM provided past records, ANN wrote the paper.


Acknowledgments: The present work was partially funded by CPE grants (under UGC) awarded to the Department of Botany, Fergusson College, Pune. We wish to thank Ashwin Warudkar and Gaurang Gowande for assisting during the fieldwork. Thanks are also due to Prof. S.B. Nalavade, Dr. A.C. Inamdar, Dr. P.S. Karekar, Dr. D.K. Kulkarni, Dr. A. Watve, Dr. A. Patwardhan, Dr. J.T. Pandkar and Dr. B.P. Shinde for providing valuable inputs during the study. We acknowledge the help of Dr. G.G. Potdar, S. Ingalhalikar, Dr. U.S. Yadav and Dr. M.N. Datar for the identification of some specimens. We also wish to extend our gratitude towards the authorities of Agharkar Research Institute, Pune and the Department of Botany, University of Pune for allowing the referencing of herbarium specimens and library facility. We are grateful to Mrs. S.S. Kate (Head, Botany Department) and Dr. R.G. Pardeshi (Principal, Fergusson College) for laboratory facilities and encouragement during the present study.




Abstract: The present study was aimed at determining the vascular plant species richness of an urban green-space- the Fergusson College campus, Pune and comparing it with the results of the past flora which was documented in 1958 by Dr. V.D. Vartak. For this, the species richness data was obtained by both secondary sources and intensive surveys from 2009–2014. The data from the primary and secondary sources resulted in the documentation of 812 species belonging to 542 genera under 124 families, of which 534 species (65.8%) exists today as compared to 654 in 1958 (net loss of 120 species). Of the 812 species listed, 278 species were observed only during the past, 210 species were exclusively recorded in the current survey and 324 species were observed both, in the past as well as current survey. Arboreal species richness recorded till date (196) in the campus accounts for 40.7% of that of the entire Pune City. Leguminosae and Poaceae were the dominant dicotyledonous and monocotyledonous families respectively and an inventory of all the species recorded is provided. Although the botanical garden over the past years has lost 187 species, it still houses rare species such as Acacia greggii, which has been reported from Maharashtra for the first time. Considering the rapidly changing urban land use in the city, much attention should be paid towards the conservation of these green spaces, for which such studies provide baseline data.


Keywords: Pune, urban green-scape, floristics, Fergusson College, checklist






With the increase in urbanization, studies focusing on urban ecology have developed rapidly in recent years (Celesti‐Grapow 2006). Within urban ecosystems, themes like the flora in and around human settlements have been in the lime light in recent decades (Pyšek 1998; Aronson et al. 2014). Floristically, cities have been observed to be richer than adjoining areas owing to high habitat heterogeneity as well as the presence of exotic species (Pyšek 1998; Chocholoušková 2003). In cities, urban green spaces are of great importance because of the multiple ecosystem services they provide (Nehru et al. 2012) and may exist in the form of domestic, public or botanical gardens, unused fields, woodlands (Smith et al. 2006; Primack & Miller‐Rushing 2009; Kitha & Lyth 2011), campuses of educational institutes (Suresh & Bhat 2000) or urban forests/ wildscapes (Joshi & Kumbhojkar 1997; Nerlekar & Kulkarni 2015).

Flora around the city of Pune (formerly Poona) has been indirectly dealt with in pioneering works on the flora of western India such as Graham (1839), Nairne (1894), Talbot (1894), Woodrow (1897–1898), Cooke (1903–08), Blatter & McCann (1935), Dalzell & Gibson (1861) along with several regional studies like Burns & Chakradev (1921), Narayanayya (1928), Garland (1931), Razi (1952), Vartak (1959a,b,c), Gunjatkar & Vartak (1982), Vartak & Ghate (1983), and Ghate (1993). The compilations available for floristic diversity of Maharashtra State also partly and indirectly deal with Pune City’s flora (Almeida 1996–2009; Lakshminarasimhan 1996; Singh & Karthikeyan 2000; Singh et al. 2001; Lakshminarasimhan et al. 2012). Studies including Ezekiel (1917–1918), Phadnis (1925), Burns (1931), Puri & Mahajan (1958), Vartak (1958a, b; 1962, 1964), Puri & Jain (1960), Varadpande (1974), Ghate & Vartak (1981), Bonde (1988), Kulkarni et al. (1989), Nagare et al. (1990), Joshi et al. (1992, 1994), Kulkarni & Kumbhojkar (1995), Joshi & Kumbhojkar (1997), Datar & Ghate (2006), Patwardhan & Gandhe (2000–2001), Ranade (2000–2001), Punalekar et al. (2010), Ingalhalikar & Barve (2010), and Nerlekar & Kulkarni (2015) deal with the city flora more directly.

Fergusson College is one such green space located in Pune City, the detailed campus flora of which was studied by late Dr. V.D. Vartak, only the analysis of which was published (Vartak 1958a). This flora was supplemented by articles including Vartak (1959d; 1960) and indirect records also exist about the campus flora (Deshpande 1938; Vartak 1957, 1959b,c,e,f, 1964; Vartak & Ghate 1983; Joshi & Kumbhojkar 1997; Nalavade 2001; Patwardhan & Gandhe 2000–2001; Ingalhalikar & Barve 2010). After Vartak’s analysis was published in 1958, no systematic efforts were made to monitor the floristic changes in the campus. Thus, the aim of the present study was to understand the changes in the flora over more than five decades since the publication of the first study. For this, we assessed the total current species richness in the campus and compared it with the 1958 results. Also, a detailed unified inventory of all the vascular plants that are recorded till date in the campus is provided with notes about historical status, rarity, and ecological remarks.



Study Area


Fergusson College (run by the Deccan Education Society and named after Sir James Fergusson, the then Governor of Bombay) was formally inaugurated on 2 January 1885. The foundation stone of the present college campus was laid in 1892, which only comprised the main building back then (Limaye 1935). The late Wrangler R.P. Paranjpye once described the landscape as “bare land which did not produce even decent grass during the rainy season’’ (Limaye 1935). At that time, the study area was isolated from the main city and sustained stunted scrub vegetation, which is evident from archival photographs and literature. Fergusson College campus is located in Pune City, Maharashtra, India (18031’17.75”N & 73050’20.17”E) with a 109-acre area (Fig. 1). The campus can be divided into two sections: the main campus which consists of century old gothic-styled buildings and forms a woodland ecosystem at present with well grown tall to moderate sized trees intermixed with herbaceous growth, both native and exotic in nature.

The second section is the Fergusson Hill that lies towards the west of the main campus. This hill was once connected to the adjoining larger Vetal hill-complex, but was fragmented due to the construction of the Senapati Bapat road in the 1960s (Nalavade 2001). The original vegetation type of the hill is tropical southern dry mixed deciduous (Type 5A/C3) as classified by Champion & Seth (1968) with the underlying rock being basalt. The perennial Mutha left bank canal used to flow through the college campus till the 1970s but has since then become defunct after the Panshet flood which affected thousands during 1961 (Fig. 2). The remnants of the canal in the form of depressions and small bridges are still seen on campus.









The entire work was undertaken from June 2009– December 2014. For the first two years (June 2009– May 2011), the surveys were opportunistic in nature, but from June 2011 onwards upto December 2014, extensive and well-planned efforts were made. The study was divided into two sections:

  1. Primary data- obtained from extensive and exhaustive ground surveys where on an average, from June 2011– December 2014, each field session lasted for about 2hr for three such days a week and thus about 1000+hr effort for three years (assuming four weeks per month and not counting the efforts from June 2009 to May 2011). Efforts for other projects in the same study area overlapped with the present work and thus the exact number of hours spent are rather difficult to arrive at.

Specimens were identified on the field following Cooke (1903–1908), Lakshminarasimhan (1996), Singh & Karthikeyan (2000), Singh et al. (2001), Ingalhalikar & Barve (2010), and Potdar et al. (2012). Garden exotics were confirmed from the online database of Flowers of India (2014) and also from experts (acknowledged). Only doubtful specimens were collected for critical examination in the laboratory. All the scientific and family names were checked using The Plant List (2014). Specimens were processed for mounting following standard protocol (Jain & Rao 1977) and voucher specimens of selected species are deposited in the herbarium of the Botany department, Fergusson College and a few rare ones at BSI (WRC).

  1. Secondary data- extensive literature surveys were carried out and all publications that mention plants from the campus are extracted and cited. Simultaneously, herbarium data from the herbarium of Agharkar Research Institute (AHMA), the Herbarium of Botany Department, Pune University and the Herbarium of Botany Department, Fergusson College were extracted. Current and past faculties as well as students from the Botany Department of Fergusson College were also consulted for additional inputs.

A comprehensive checklist was drafted on uniting the data from all the aforementioned sources, which includes current as well as past status of occurrence for each species. This assessment was done for all vascular plants including gymnosperms as well as pteridophytes. Lower cryptogams including algae and fungi were not assessed, but a brief literature review is presented.





A total of 812 species belonging to 542 genera under 124 families in total have been recorded in the past as well as present. Out of these, 534 species (belonging to 397 genera and 99 families) are currently present in the campus as revealed in the 2011–2014 survey (Fig. 3). The detailed inventory of the species is provided in Table 1 and some peculiar species are depicted in Images 1–3. Overall, trees are represented by 196 species and the rest of the species (616) are non-woody. Of all the 196 trees, 105 (53.6%) are native and the rest exotic. Pune City houses about 482 arboreal species (Ingalhalikar & Barve 2010) and arboreal species richness of the Fergusson campus till date accounts for almost 40.7% of Pune City’s richness. Out of these total 196 trees, 152 species still exist on campus. Out of the total 812 species documented, 278 species that were observed in the past could not be seen during the current survey. Two-hundred-and-ten species were exclusively recorded in the current survey, which were not recorded earlier and 324 species were observed in the past as well as during the current surveys. Leguminosae was found to be the dominant family in dicotyledons and Poaceae in monocotyledons. A comparative species composition account of the analysis by Vartak (1958a) with the current survey of selected families is provided in Fig.4. However, the results may not be comparable in the true sense as the methodology followed by the earlier researchers might not be exactly replicated and the present findings are rather baseline broader-level indicative changes and minor intricacies might need to be amended in the near future.

Special mention should be made of two species from the campus: Syzygium heyneanum (Duthie) Gamble plants that are probably the only surviving specimens within Pune City (S. Ingalhalikar pers. comm. 2015). This species was earlier known from Vithalwadi along the Mula-Multha River (Ingalhalikar & Barve 2010) and all plants around Pune were destroyed in the subsequent years due to several anthropogenic activities. Acacia greggii A. Gray (identified by S. Ingalhalikar), an exotic plant, has been reported for the first time from Maharashtra. A single well grown plant is seen in the botanical garden. During the initiative for enlisting arboreal flora of the campus by Mahajan (2006), this plant (with label B1/P1-157) was misidentified as Acacia leucophloea (Roxb.) Wild. Several European and American botanists used to visit the botanical garden in its early years and we suppose that propagules of this species were brought by them (Vartak 1981).

Out of the total 812 species documented over all, 437 species (54.5%) were also reported from the Fergusson College Botanical Garden (FCBG) and out of these 250 (30.8%) are present today in FCBG with a loss of 187 species over time. The most cited specimens (including the herbarium records) are represented in Fig. 5. In all, 30 publications mention species occurring in the Fergusson campus (either indirectly or directly) which have been cited in Table 1. The earliest publication is by Deshpande (1938) and the most number of publications has been recorded in the decade from 2001 to 2010 followed by the decade from 1951 to 1960.

Even if the lower cryptogamic flora from the campus has been excluded in the present analysis, we wish to highlight selected publications. Pandkar (2012) reported a rare algae Oedocladium prescottii from the soil around the Physics Department whereas 13 aero-algal forms were recorded in the campus (Pandkar 2011). Pandkar et al. (2010) explored the terrestrial and sub-aerial algal diversity from the campus and found Cyanophyta (30 forms) to be most dominant, followed by Chlorophyta (11 forms) and Bacillariophyta (3 forms). Vaidya et al. (2009) reported 22 species belonging to six genera of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi from the campus.









From the results it is clear that there has been a distinct decline in species richness over more than 50 years. Vartak (1958a) reported 654 species as compared to the present 534 species (a loss of 120). The arboreal species composition does not seem to be affected significantly and instead has risen by 32 species (from 120 in 1958 to 152 at present). It is important to note that inspite of the changes in species richness dominant families including Leguminosae, Malvaceae, Apocynaceae and Euphorbiaceae have not seen drastic fluctuations in richness whereas Orchidaceae and Asteraceae do show a negative trend while Poaceae has shown additions. The species which were cited maximally (Fig.5) belonged to either two categories—ones which were/are locally rare such as Parmentiera cereifera Seem., Sterculia guttata Roxb., Elaeocarpus ganitrus Roxb. ex G.Don, Encephalartos sp., and those which are relatively common introduced exotics like Albizia saman (Jacq.) Merr., Sterculia foetida L., Ceiba pentandra(L.) Gaertn. and Swietenia mahagoni (L.) Jacq. The 210 species which are newly recorded as additions to the old flora are predominantly exotic ornamentals, whereas the 278 species reported as extirpated consist of ornamentals as well as several rare exotics and endangered indigenous species. Even if the decade from 2001–2010 shows the maximum publications mentioning species records from the campus, most of them either deal with species cultivated for experimental purposes or indirect records; whereas publications from the period 1951–1970 deal more directly with the floristics of the campus. The present compiliation should not be considered as a complete enumeration of the campus flora. We are well aware of the limitations of the present study and families like Cyperaceae, Poaceae and some exotic ornamentals are predicted to show more richness on critical examination.

Vartak in his analysis of the campus flora (1958a) had put forth his desire to compile a comprehensive flora for the campus after collection of adequate data in the future. The unavailability of the complete floristic account of the campus till date has also resulted in our lack of understanding about the vegetation that can thrive under pronounced human influence (Ranade 2000–2001). Thus the current work stands as an important, much awaited baseline document for all further studies with respect to the campus and we hope that it would be updated periodically in the future.





The Fergusson Botanical garden

Botanical gardens are of tremendous research importance as they help conserve rare, endemic plants (Fay 1992), contribute to supplying live material for biosystematic studies, preparation of local floras, monographs (Naik 2000) and even climate change research (Primack & Miller‐Rushing 2009). In light of increasing student strength, FCBG was established in 1902 by the late Prof. Shevade, the then professor of Botany and developed later by the late Prof. D. L. Dixit (Vartak 1958a). FCBG was once a well-known garden in western Maharashtra complete with a rich assemblage of rare species (Vartak 1958a; 1964; Wagh 1996), but underwent great destruction after the Panshet flood (1961) and the drought which followed (Vartak 1964; Wagh 1996). FCBG once had a well-planned fernery, rockery, a well maintained habitat for aquatic plants along with separate sections for plants arranged according to families (Vartak 1958a). Apart from some efforts in the form of infrastructure development (grants during 1998 by the Pune-Bremen Association and during 1999 by the Department of Environment and Forests, Govt. of India) and in 2003 during the garden’s centenary year (Anonymous 2003), it has seen great degradation recently (Anonymous 2002; Satam 2011) and needs to be urgently maintained. The loss of rare and well grown plants from the garden including Encephalartos sp., Garcinia livingstonei T. Anderson, Elaeocarpus ganitrus, Dillenia indica L., Coccoloba uvifera (L.) L., Chloroxylon swietenia DC., Eulophia pratensis Lindl. and Saccopetalum tomentosum Hook.f. & Thomson is indeed significant. Most of these species are also some of the most cited ones (refer Fig. 5). Until 1996, specimens required for undergraduate studies were grown in the garden itself and it also provided material for the Certificate course in Nursery Development which was functional back then (Wagh 1996). After the establishment of postgraduate courses at the University of Poona in 1948, FCBG sowly started losing its importance; which is evident from the fact that 15 to 30 gardeners were employed at the beginning (Vartak 1981) which reduced to four by 2000 (A.C. Inamdar pers.comm. 2015). It still has some important heritage trees (for Pune City) at present for example Acacia greggii, Araucaria cunninghamii Mudie, Parmentiera cereifera, Terminalia bellirica (Gaertn.) Roxb., Pterygota alata (Roxb.) R.Br., Cedrela toona Roxb.ex Rottler, Dendrocalamus giganteus Munro and Gardenia latifolia Aiton which need to be conserved. The herbarium of the Botany department of this college also houses a rich collection of specimens collected from the campus (Image 5).



The Fergusson hill

The hill today presents a mosaic of habitats with patches of relict scrub vegetation along with plantations (Image 4). Only some part of the southern spur of the hill and fragmented patches of the hill top retain the original forest type with the presence of Aristida spp., Dichanthium spp., Lophopogon tridentatus (Roxb.) Hack., Acacia leucophloea and Flueggea leucopyrus Willd. Mass plantations of exotics like Gliricidia sepium (Jacq.) Walp and Leucaena leucocephala (Lam.) de Wit in the past have severely affected native diversity. The Boswellia–Lannea–Anogeissus tree community can hardly be seen on the FC hill today, which is otherwise common on adjacent hills in Pune (Nerlekar & Kulkarni 2015). Several citizens use the hill regularly everyday for recreational activities and thus can contribute positively towards its development. Recent unplanned afforestation programmes also pose a threat to the hill’s diversity and preserving the original dry-deciduous and scrub vegetation is of urgent need. The grassland/scrub patches are a unique ecosystem by themselves and communicating this to the general public is of paramount importance.

Pune City has undergone rapid changes in land use patterns with the percentage of urban land use shooting up from 2.96 in 1977 to 20.40 in 2013 and a decline in vegetation (Ramachandra et al. 2014). Urban green spaces including this college campus are of great ecological significance as they provide multiple ecosystem services like clean air and water, sustain an array of wildlife, mitigate climate change,and reduce the heat island effect (Kitha & Lyth 2011). Thus understanding the history of biodiversity, periodic quantitative monitoring and compilation of such urban biota especially in tropical cities (Aronson et al. 2014) by conducting exhaustive surveys and engaging students in its conservation would pave the path towards conservation of this unique urban landscape.

‘Ignorance of natural history grows in direct proportion to the scarcity of natural areas in convenient proximity to where people live’ (Noss 1996). Pure sciences for instance plant taxonomy have been greatly neglected in recent years (Abrol 2013). Also, there has been a severe dearth of trained field botanists or naturalists in a broader sense (Noss 1996; Sen 2013). The decline in the willingness to carry out taxonomic work is an outcome of the fact that taxonomy has been underrated by universities (Venu 2002). Such baseline data in the form of species checklists would prove to be valuable for future conservation efforts (Check List 2015).











In the present initative, the authors are well aware of the citation of grey literature such as articles from the Fergusson College Magazine, Poona Agriculture College Magazine, conference proceedings and theses. Such grey literature is nonetheless important to science as a primary source of information (Alberani 1990) and thus was of utmost importance for citing sources for the present compilation.

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Anonymous (2003). Rare trees planted in Fergusson College garden. Times of India, Pune, 1 June 2003.

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