Journal of Threatened Taxa | | 26 October 2017 | 9(10): 10804–10822





Floristic diversity of the Indian Cardamom Research Institute campus, Myladumpara, Western Ghats, India



Anoop P. Balan1 & S. Harikrishnan2



1,2* Indian Cardamom Research Institute, Myladumpara, Kailasanadu P.O., Idukki, Kerala 685553, India

1 Present address: Malabar Botanical Garden and Institute for Plant Sciences, Kozhikkod, Kerala 673014, India

1 (corresponding author),






Editor: K. Ravikumar, FRLHT, Bengaluru, India. Date of publication: 26 October 2017 (online & print)


Manuscript details: Ms # 2611 | Received 04 January 2017 | Final received 18 August 2017 | Finally accepted 04 October 2017


Citation: Balan, A.P. & S. Harikrishnan (2017). Floristic diversity of the Indian Cardamom Research Institute campus, Myladumpara, Western Ghats, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(10): 10804–10822;


Copyright: © Balan & Harikrishnan 2017. 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: None.


Competing interests: The authors declare no competing interests.


Author Details: Dr. Anoop P. Balan - presently working as Principal Investigator in a DST-SERB funded project at Malabar Botanical Garden and Institute for Plant Sciences, Kozhikode, Kerala. Selected for SERB-National Post Doctoral Fellowship for the year 2016. Actively engaged in angiosperm taxonomic studies in south India especially in the family Leguminosae. Mr. S. Harikrishnan - presently working as Sr. Agriculture Demonstrator in Indian Cardamom Research Institute, Spices Board, Myladumpara, Idukki, Kerala. Post Graduate in Botany, interested in floristic studies.


Author Contribution:  First author conducted the floristic survey and documentation. Second author was very much interested in systematic studies and accompanied in field surveys throughout the period, helped in specimen collection and processing, photography, literature survey etc.


Acknowledgements: The authors are grateful to the present and past Directors of the Indian Cardamom Research Institute, Spices Board, Myladumpara for providing facilities and encouragement. Dr. John Jo Varghese, Dr. P. Senthilkumaran, Dr. V. Sreekumar, Shri. T. Loganathan, Shri. G. Balachandran, Shri. Mobin Paulose and other staff and farm labourers of ICRI are gratefully acknowledged for their various help during the course of study. Thanks, are also due to Dr. N. Sasidharan (Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi), Dr. A.J. Robi (BAM College, Thuruthicadu), Dr. C. Sathish Kumar (Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden &Research Institute, Thiruvananthapuram), Dr. S.V. Predeep (SVR NSS College, Vazhoor) and Dr. P.S. Udayan (Sree Krishna College, Guruvayur) for their guidance and the curators of CALI, KFRI and TBGT for granting permission for herbarium consultation.






Abstract: A study on the flora of Indian Cardamom Research Institute campus, Myladumpara was carried out during 2012–2015 and a total of 515 taxa were collected during this study. The indigenous or naturalized flora is represented by 392 taxa in 303 genera under 94 families. Dicotyledonous plants dominate with 335 species in 251 genera under 80 families. Monocotyledons are represented by 57 species in 52 genera under 14 families. Among the families, Fabaceae dominates with 29 species followed by Asteraceae (27 spp.) and Euphorbiaceae (22 spp.) and 40 families are represented by single species each. During the study 68 species that are considered as endemic to the Western Ghats could be collected.


Keywords: Angiosperms, biodiversity, check list, ICRI Campus.









Kerala, a narrow strip of land, lies along the southwestern corner of the Indian peninsula and harbours 4,679 taxa of flowering plants of which 1,637 (35%) are endemic to peninsular India, especially the Western Ghats (Sasidharan 2004; Nayar et al. 2014). Indian Cardamom Research Institute (ICRI) is the research wing of Spices Board established in 1978 during the time of Cardamom Board at Myladumpara, near Udumbanchola in the Cardamom Hills of Idukki District, Kerala. Myladumpara is a mist shrouded hill station on the Western Ghats, one of the biodiversity hotspotsin India. The pristine tropical evergreen forest ecosystem of this location in the past got withered over a period of time due to the establishment of small and large cardamom plantations. The flora and fauna underwent thorough changes affecting the ecological balance of the area. In this context, ICRI emerges as a model research station for other similar institutions and private plantations in conserving the remaining natural wealth. Apart from cardamom plantations, the campus possess rich and diverse indigenous flora due to its peculiar position in Western Ghats, topography and climate. The campus has not been subjected to detailed floristic studies and the present attempt is to fill this lacuna.


Review of earlier works

Plants from the high ranges of Idukki District have been studied and described by workers namely Beddome (1869–1874), Bourdillon (1908) and Rama Rao (1914), which include many of the species found in the Myladumpara area of Cardamom Hills and their collections were also cited by Hooker (1872–1897) and Gamble & Fischer (1915–1936). Taxonomists from Calicut University botany department have also studied the tree flora of ICRI campus, and identified most of the shade trees in the campus. Balan et al. (2014) reported Desmodium intortum (Mill.) Urb. from the campus, which was a new record for India. Balan & Harikrishnan (2016) added a new species to the genus Ixora L. from the campus, i.e., I. predeepii Anoop & Harikrishnan.


Study Area

ICRI campus lies between 905′N & 7709′E in Idukki Revenue District of Kerala State. The campus covers an area of 64.60 ha and is divided lengthwise by the Kumily-Munnar state highway. The campus is of undulating terrain with hills and valleys presenting splendid scenery of luxuriant evergreen forests.The altitude of the area ranges from 1,050–1,060 m. For administrative convenience the campus is divided into 19 blocks. All the blocks have cardamom plantations for research purposes except block no.1, 2 & 17 where the remaining evergreen forest patch is preserved (Fig. 1).







Climate and Vegetation

The general climatic condition in Myladumpara is humid and cool. The mean maximum temperature for the last 10 years is 25.70 C and the mean minimum is 17.050C with April–May the hottest months and December–January the coolest. The data on relative humidity for the past 10 years shows a more or less constant figure, i.e., between 90 and 96. The area receives both the southwest and the northeast monsoons with the maximum rainfall in June–July and the minimum in December–January months. The average rainfall is 2,153mm per year and 2,732.9mm rainfall occurred in the year 2013, which was the highest annually recorded rainfall during the past 10 years.The data showed a regular reduction in rainfall in the alternate years. The climatic data for Myladumpara during 2007–2016 is provided in Table 1.

Champion & Seth (1968) recognized 26 forest types in Kerala of which the major ones are the west coast tropical evergreen, southern hilltop tropical evergreen, tropical semi-evergreen, southern moist mixed deciduous, southern dry mixed deciduous, southern subtropical hill forests, southern montane wet temperate forests, and southern montane wet grasslands. The natural vegetation of ICRI campus is of the west coast tropical evergreen type. The major associations of trees in the campus are Cullenia-Mesua-Palaquium association, Hopea-Dipterocarpus-Vateria association and Myristica-Polyalthia-Calophyllum association.

The top canopy is formed of trees like Acrocarpus fraxinifolius Wight & Arn., Antiaris toxicaria Lesch., Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam., Bhesa indica (Bedd.) Ding Hou, Bischofia javanica Blume, Calophyllum calaba L., Canarium strictum Roxb., Chrysophyllum roxburghii G. Don, Cullenia exarillata Robyns, Dimocarpus longan Lour., Dipterocarpus indicus Bedd., Dysoxylum malabaricum Bedd. ex Hiern, Elaeocarpus tuberculatus Roxb., Hopea parviflora Bedd., Litsea oleoides (Meissn.) Hook.f., Mesua ferrea L., Myristica beddomei King, Palaquium ellipticum (Dalz.) Baill., Poeciloneuron indicum Bedd, Monoon fragrans (Dalzell) B. Xue & R.M.K. Saunders, Syzygium gardneri Thw., Vateria indica L., etc.

The second storey has medium-sized trees adapted to partial shady conditions such as Actinodaphne bourdillonii Gamble, A. wightiana (Kuntze) Noltie, Cryptocarya stocksii Meissn., Diospyros assimilis Bedd., Ficus spp., Flacourtia montana Graham, Garcinia morella (Gaertn.) Desv., Litsea deccanensis Gamble, Macaranga peltata (Roxb.) Muell.-Arg., Melicope lunu-ankenda (Gaertn.) Hartley, Machilus macrantha Nees, Prunus zeylanica (Wight) Miq., Xanthophyllum arnottianum Wight, etc.

The third storey possesses small trees and large shrubs like Acronychia pedunculata (L.) Miq., Agrostistachys borneensis Becc., Antidesma montanum Blume, Callicarpa tomentosa (L.) L., Clausena indica (Dalz.) Oliver, Chionanthus mala-elengi (Dennst.) P.S. Green, Ixora elongata Heyne ex G.Don, Ixora predeepii Anoop & Harikrishnan, Isonandra perrottetiana A. DC, Nothopegia racemosa (Dalz.) Ramam., etc.

Shrubs like Allophylus cobbe (L.) Raeusch., Atalantia wightii Tanaka, Chassalia curviflora (Wall. ex Kurz) Thw. var. Longifolia (Dalz.) Hook.f., Dichapetalum gelonioides (Roxb.) Engl., Justicia santapau Bennet, Lepianthes umbellatus (L.) Rafin., Lepisanthes erecta (Thw.) Leenh., Mussaenda frondosa L., Pavetta zeylanica (Hook.f.) Gamble, Rauvolfia verticillata (Lour.) Baill., Schumannianthus virgatus (Roxb.) Rolfe, Solanum torvum Sw., Strobilanthes pulneyensis Hook.f., Thottea duchartrei Sivar., Babu & Indu, etc. and herbs like Acalypha paniculata Miq., Achyranthes bidentata Blume, Acmella calva (DC.) R.K. Jansen, Bidens pilosa L., Desmodium repandum (Vahl) DC., Dichrocephala integrifolia (L.f.) O. Ktze., Drymeria cordata (L.) Willd. ex Roem. & Schult., Eragrostis tenella (L.) P. Beauv. ex Roem. & Schult., Floscopa scandens Lour., Hydrocotyle javanica Thunb., Impatiens dasysperma Wight, I. Maculata Wight, Isodon lophanthoides (Buch.-Ham. ex D. Don) H. Hara, Lobelia nicotianifolia Roth ex Roem. & Schult., Ophiorhiza mungosL., Phaulopsis imbricata (Forssk.) Sweet., Phyllanthus rheedei Wight, Pilea melastomoides (Poir.) Blume, Plantago erosa Wall., Rhynchoglossum notonianum (Wall.) Burtt, Setaria palmifolia (Koenig) Stapf, Urena lobata L., and Youngia japonica (L.) DC. constitute the ground flora of the campus.

Aganosma cymosa (Roxb.) G. Don, Ancistrocladus heyneanus Wall. ex Graham, Argyreia hirsuta Wight & Arn., Cayratia pedata (Lam.) A. Juss. ex Gagnep., Derris brevipes (Benth.) Baker, Dioscorea oppositifolia L., Diplocyclos palmatus (L.) Jeffrey, Erythropalum scandens Blume, Jasminum coarctatum Roxb., Naravalia zeylanica (L.) DC., Neonotonia wightii (Graham ex Wight & Arn.) Lackey, Oxyceros rugulosus (Thw.) Tirveng., Piper velayudhanii E.S.S. Kumar & S.P. Mathew, Smilax zeylanica L., Stephania wightii (Arn.) Dunn, Strychnos colubrina L., etc. are the common climbers. Epiphytes like Aeschynanthes perrottetii A. DC., Aerides ringens (Lindl.) C.E.C. Fisch., Bulbophyllum aureum (Hook. f.) J.J. Smith, Dendrobium herbaceum Lindl., Eria pauciflora Wight, Papilionanthe cylindrical (Lindl.) Seidenf., and Remusatia vivipara (Roxb.) Schott are also recorded from the campus.








The flora is the result of repeated seasonal collections of plant specimens from the study area and extensive field studies during the year 2012–2015. Herbarium sheets were prepared following Bridson& Forman (1998) and are housed at the herbarium in Department of Botany, ICRI, Myladumpara. Identifications of each taxon was done with pertinent literature like The Flora of British India (Hooker 1872–1897), The Flora of Presidency of Madras (Gamble 1915–1936), Flowering Plants of Travancore (Rao 1914), Flowering Plants of Kerala- Digital Flora (Sasidharan 2013), and consultation of authentic specimens in CALI, KFRI and TBGT and those which needed further confirmation were referred to the experts in concerned groups in Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi and Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden & Research Institute, Thiruvananthapuram. The geographical distribution details of each taxon is provided based on Sasidharan (2013) and Nayar et al. (2014).





During the study 515 taxa of flowering plants belonging to 393 genera under 109 families were collected. The indigenous/ naturalized flora is represented by 392 taxa in 303 genera under 94 families (Table 2) and the rest 123 taxa are introduced ornamental plants and cultivated fruit or spice crops. Out of the 392 taxa dicotyledons are represented by 335 species in 251 genera under 80 families. Monocotyledons have 57 species belonging to 52 genera under 14 families. Life form analysis (Fig. 2) revealed that, out of the 392 taxa identified, the majority are herbs (155) and trees (125) followed by shrubs (58) and climbers (54). Among the herbs, 16 are epiphytes. The legume family Fabaceae with 29 species in 22 genera is the largest followed by Asteraceae (27 species) and Euphorbiaceae (22 species). Including this, there are ten families with more than 10 species in each (Fig. 3). The rest are Rubiaceae (18), Poaceae (17), Orchidaceae (15), Lauraceae (14), Moraceae (13), Acanthaceae (12) and Urticaceae (11). The dominant genera are Ficus (12), Ipomoea (6), Litsea (6) and Desmodium (5). As many as 40 families are represented by single species each. Exotic species such as Ageratina adenophora (Spreng.) King & Robins., Conyza Canadensis (L.) Cronq., Desmodiumintortum(Mill.) Urb., Desmodium uncinatum (Jacq.) DC., Lantana camera L., Mikania micrantha Kunth, Parthenium hysterophorus L., Tridax procumbens L., etc. have extensively invaded the degraded forest areas and open wastelands. The block wise analysis shows that block no. 13, the main campus, is the species-rich block owing to the presence of several introduced ornamental plants and shade trees whereas, block no. 12, 6, 1 and 18 are the richest blocks in terms of native plants.

Economically important plants

ICRI campus is endowed with a large number of economically important plants. About 60 % of the indigenous plants are having recorded utilities, either as medicine, food, timber or as ornamental plant. Medicinal plants include Acmella calva (DC.) R.K. Jansen (Tooth ache plant), Antiaris toxicaria Lesch. (Upas tree), Justicia adhatoda L. (Adhatoda), Cardiospermum halicacabum L. (Balloon Vine), Curculigo orchioides Gaertn. (Balck Musale), Dillenia indica L. (Elephant Apple), Dioscorea pentaphylla L. (Fiji Yam), Diospyros assimilis Bedd. (Malabar Ebony), Eleusine indica (L.) Gaertn. (Crab Grass), Galinsoga parviflora Cav. (Quick Weed), Hedychium flavescens Carey ex Rosc. (Yellow Ginger), Morinda citrifolia L. (Noni), Rubia cordifolia L. (Indian Madder), Scoparia dulcis L. (Liquorice Weed), Solanum torvum Sw. (Devils Fig), Terminalia chebula Retz. (Gallnut), etc. Trees like Calophyllum calaba L., Dalbergia lanceolaria L.f., Gluta travancorica Bedd., Hopea parviflora Bedd., Lophopetalum wightianum Arn., Mesua ferrea L., etc are timber yielding. Gum (Canarium strictum Roxb., Palaquium ellipticum (Dalz.) Baill., resin (Vateria indica L.) and varnish (Holigarna nigra Bourd.) yielding trees are also located from the campus.

Introduced/ cultivated plants

Out of the 515 plants identified from ICRI campus, about 24% are introduced ornamental plants and cultivated fruit crops like Banana, Mango, Jack fruit or spice crops like Allspice, Cardamom, Clove, Coffee, Ginger, Nutmeg, Pepper, Turmeric, etc (Table 3).
















The Indian Cardamom Research Institute, situated in the Cardamom Hills along the southern Western Ghats in Idukki District, comes under the Anamalai-High Range endemic centre. Owing to its peculiar position in the southern Western Ghats, undulating terrain, rich soil, humid tropical climate endowed with plentiful rainfall together has given rise to a flora of great diversity. Angiosperms, the dominant plant group which the present study dealt with, has a representation of 392 indigenous/ naturalized plants belonging to 303 genera under 94 families. This much genus diversity in a comparatively smaller area of land (0.6060km2) is a reflection of the uniqueness of the species rich Western Ghats forest ecosystem. Among the 392 taxa documented, about 60 % of the plants are useful either as medicine, food, timber or as ornamental plant.



Endemic plants

The Western Ghats, a chain of mountains of about 1,600km long extending from Tapti River Valley in Gujarat to Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of the Indian peninsula, is the second largest abode for endemic flowering plants in the whole of India after the Himalayan region (Basha & Nair 1991). Subramanyam & Nayar (1974) phytogeographically analysed the Western Ghats and identified four floristically characteristic regions, namely (i) The Western Ghats from river Tapti to Goa, (ii) Kalinadi to Coorg, (iii) the Nilgiris and (iv) Anamalai, Palani and Cardamom hills. The present study area falls within the ivth region. Among the 392 indigenous taxa identified from the campus, 86 are endemic to India of which 68 are strictly confined to the Western Ghats (Fig. 4; Images 1–66).

The campus is located in the core area of the Cardamom Hill Reserves (CHR), blessed with a multitude of flora and fauna, most of which are still unexplored. The CHR, comprises the cardamom plantations and adjoining grasslands, sholas and forested areas of great biodiversity, is notified as a reserve forest by the erstwhile Travancore Government. However, large areas of the CHR were leased out for cardamom cultivation since the land was most suitable for the spice crop. The cardamom rules lay down that nothing except cardamom should be grown on the leased land and the tree canopy should be maintained, failing which, the land should revert to the government. However, large number of cases of tree felling, large-scale encroachments, illegal sale of land, deforestation for resort construction and other tourism related activities, etc., have taken place from the beginning, which is still continuing.

The indiscriminate human interactions in the delicate ecosystem of CHR in the form of loggers, poachers and grabbers, the uncontrolled application of harmful insecticides and pesticides in the cardamom plantations, etc., have severely affected the local climate of the area and even its unique micro-environment. The climatic changes in the form of rise in temperature, uneven rainfall, etc., may ultimately affect the productivity of our wonder spice queen, the Cardamom (Kerala state Biodiversity Board, 2011).

Apart from the human activities, fast-spreading invasive alien species like Alternanthera brasiliana (L.) Kuntze, Chromolaena odorata (L.) King & Robins., Desmodium intortum (Mill.) Urb., Ipomoea purpurea (L.) Roth, Lantana camera L., Mimosa diplotricha C. Wight ex Sanvalle, Parthenium hysterophorus L., etc. are also a threat to the native flora of CHR (Kerala state Biodiversity Board, 2011).

In this scenario, ICRI campus bears a key role in the protection of the invaluable biological wealth in the CHR and is in fact a refuge for several threatened plants of that area.In the present study, only Angiosperms were covered. ICRI campus is also rich in lower group plants like Algae, Fungi, Bryophytes and Pteridophytes. Apart from the diverse flora, the campus is home to animals like Barking Deer, Wild Boar, Indian Porcupine, Monitor Lizard, Nilgiri Marten, Bonnet Macaque, Giant Squirrel, among others. A rich variety of birds including the Malabar Grey Hornbill, Ceylon Frog Mouth and Brahmini Kite can be seen in the campus. Butterflies and insects are another unexplored group. It is very important to study the non-flowering plants and fauna of the campus to have an in-depth knowledge of the biodiversity of the campus.

Moreover, the remnants of natural vegetation endowed with biodiversity preserved throughout the campus, cool and pleasant climate, splendid scenery of cardamom growing hills and valleys makes the campus an ideal place for ecotourism projects.






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