Journal of Threatened Taxa | | 26 August 2017 | 9(8): 10623–10625







Records of the Palni Hills Rudraksha Tree Elaeocarpus blascoi (Oxalidales: Elaeocarpaceae) in Palni Hills, Tamil Nadu, India


Robert Stewart & Tanya Balcar


Vattakanal Conservation Trust, 21/45 A&B, Pambarpuram, Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu 624101, India, (corresponding author)









Editor: N.P. Balakrishnan, Coimbatore, India. Date of publication: 26 August 2017 (online & print)


Manuscript details: Ms # 3083 | Received 03 October 2016 | Final received 04 August 2017 | Finally accepted 06 August 2017


Citation: Stewart, R. & T. Balcar (2017). Records of the Palni Hills Rudraksha Tree Elaeocarpus blascoi (Oxalidales: Elaeocarpaceae) in Palni Hills, Tamil Nadu, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 9(8): 10623–10625;


Copyright: © Stewart & Balcar 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: Partial funds from Investing in Nature-India.


Competing interests: The authors declare no competing interests.


Acknowledgements: We thank T. John for his diligent work over the years, and the Botanical Survey of India and Investing in Nature-India for funding some part of the work. We thank Nandini Rajamani for encouragement and assistance with the manuscript.






The Palni Hills Rudrakhsa Tree Elaeocarpus blascoi Weibel is a medium-sized tree endemic to the Western Ghats that is currently described as Endangered B1+2c ver 2.3 (World Conservation Monitoring Centre 1998). The species is known only from the type.

The species was first collected from Bear Shola (2150 m), on the edge of Kodaikanal Town in the Palni Hills in 1970 by Blasco (FB 339 (HIFP), later described and validly published by R. Weibel in Candollea 27: 16, 1972. By the time K.M. Matthew published the Flora of the Palni Hills in 1999, the tree was gone, and he described the species as probably extinct (Matthew 1999).

E. blascoi, a species of the genus Elaeocarpus (Family Elaeocarpaceae) is only known from records above 1,900m (Matthew 1999). Other Elaeocarpus found on the plateau in sympatry with E. blascoi are E. recurvatus, E. glandulosus, E. munronii and E. tuberculatus (Matthew 1999).

E. blascoi is described as a tree with branchlets and tender parts sericeous. The leaves are ovate-elliptic, up to 9x4 cm, coriaceous, base obtuse, margin serrate, apex acute; petiole ca 2cm long. Racemes are terminal, up to 7cm long, <10 flowered. The flower is white or cream in colour, ca 1.2 cm wide with pedicel of 1cm long. Sepals are five in number, lanceolate, 0.8 x 0.2 cm in size and rusty. Petals are 5, cuneate, 1.2 x 0.5 cm in size, apically laciniate. The drupe is ellipsoid, of size ca 1.6 x 1 cm with a stalk of 1.2cm long and one seed.

We describe the rediscovery of the species in the Palni Hills, and two plantings that have survived over the past 20 years. While these have been reported in a few publications, details are incomplete or seem to have been omitted (Stewart & Balcar 2003, 2008; Ramasubbu & Irudhayaraj 2016). Two publications claim rediscovery of the species (Vijayan et al. 2011; Irudhayaraj & Ramasubbu 2014), indeed, of the exact same tree, though our efforts have previously been published (Stewart & Balcar 2003, 2008).

During routine seed collection around Kodaikanal in 1989, a few seeds of E. blascoi were collected in Vattakanal Shola, above 1,900m, by RS and TB. At the time the seeds were collected, it was not known that these were of E. blascoi, as rainforest tree seeds are often hard to tell apart. Also, at the time, the authors had no previous experience with the species. One seed germinated in 1990, and after seven years of nursery care AB9 was planted on Vattakanal roadside with the help of the Vattakanal Youth Group volunteers in July 1997. The tree was named AB9 according to our internal numbering system. Since it was a seedling/young tree, it was still not identifiable as E. blascoi at the time of planting. AB9 still survives to this day. This tree first flowered in 2005 and bore fruit from 2006. It has been flowering and fruiting regularly since then. Details of growth are in Table 1 (Images 1–5).

In 2000, T. John, a nurseryman at the Vattakanal Conservation Trust, came upon what was presumably the mother tree in Vattakanal Shola. We checked against E. munronii and concluded it was E. blascoi. Further consultation with Fr. K.M. Matthew confirmed this. Herbarium sheets were prepared and Fr. Matthew took one to Kew Herbarium in 2003, where authorities at Kew authenticated the identity of our tree as E. blascoi. Kew called to congratulate and confirm that it was indeed Elaeocarpus blascoi. Following this, in 2001, tree AB9 and the seedlings from the mature tree were confirmed as E. blascoi.

Several small collections were made in 2000 with green drupes from the mature E. blascoi tree in Vattakanal Shola. A conventional soil mix in a seed tray covered glass was used, which produced good gemination. Annual spring (March–April) bug infections tend to be a major setback as the new growth is attacked. We observed light germination from six months and up to 18 months and initial growth was very slow. The fruit’s stone was difficult to break without destroying the seed and we typically cleaned the flesh off the seeds before sowing them. While this can speed up germination by one year, it proved difficult to do, so we advise that the seeds are best sown with the stone.

One sapling from the 2000 seed collection batch was planted in the Pambarpuram nursery of the Vattakanal Conservation Trust in 2010 after 10 years of care, and still survives there to this day. The Pambarpuram tree, entering its 16th year (2016), has grown into the most densely foliaceous tree we have ever seen, its production of leafy bio-mass is greater than any of our other species. Though as a sapling the plant suffered from periodic infections, the Pambarpuram tree, once planted out, shook off its annual infection. We have no definite idea why this should have happened, or why it opted for two main stems.

The Pambarpuram tree is more vigorous than AB9, despite being younger (Table 1). This could be attributed to the fact that the Pambarpuram tree is planted next to a compost heap, possibly a source of nutrients. It is also possible that this tree was planted after 10 years of nursery care, and AB9 was planted when it was seven years old.

E. blascoi is a very slow-growing species due to severe annual bug infections (March–April) in its initial years, but has been a priority for us due to its rarity. A minimum of five years nursery care would seem appropriate. Our planted trees were watered whenever required. We recommend at least two years of aftercare for planted trees.

Other saplings have been planted in the Pambarpuram nursery, predominantly from AB9, having been germinated successfully using our conventional technique. A few other saplings of E. blascoi were planted in safe places, including the Forest Department headquarters, Kodaikanal. Many people have taken seeds from the roadside tree AB9, including colleges and schools. Seedlings have routinely been given to Forest Department, Kodaikanal. Several institutions, plains-based, have attempted to cultivate the tree through laboratory techniques etc. As far as we can ascertain none have been successful. Our experience tells us that only conventional cultivation by seed and a great deal of patience can ensure the future of the tree.






Irudhayaraj, D.F. & R. Ramasubbu (2014). The lonely endemic Palni Hills Rudraksha Tree Elaeocarpus blascoi Weibel (Magnoliopsida: Malvales: Elaeocarpaceae), Tamil Nadu, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 6(11): 6473–6476;

Matthew, K.M. (1999). The flora of the Palni Hills, South India. The Rapinat Herbarium, St. Joseph’s College, Tiruchirapalli, India.

Ramasubbu, R. & D.F. Irudhayaraj (2016). Reproductive biology of Elaeocarpus blascoi Weibel, an endemic and endangered tree species of Palni Hills, Western Ghats, India. Current Science 110(2): 234–240.

Stewart, R. & T. Balcar (2003). Restoration of southern Indian shola forests: Realising community-based forest conservation in the Palni Hills of the Western Ghats. Social Change 33(2&3): 115–128.

Stewart, R. & T. Balcar (2008). Rare Flora of the Upper Palnis, pp. 135-138. In: Rawat, G.S. (ed.). Special Habitats and Threatened Plants of India. ENVIS Bulletin: Wildlife and Protected Areas, Vol. 11 (1). Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, India.

Vijayan, A., J.V. Sudhakaran & C.S. Rajasekharan (2011) Rediscovery of Elaeocarpus blascoi (Elaeocarpaceae) from Palni Hills of Western Ghats, Tamil Nadu. Journal of Economic & Taxonomic Botany 35: 618–620.

Weibel, R. (1972) Deuxc especes nouvelles du genere Elaeocarpus provenant des montagnes du sed del’ Inde. Condollea 27(1): 15–19.

World Conservation Monitoring Centre (1998). Elaeocarpus blascoi. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 1998: e.T33639A9799790. Downloaded on 09 September 2016.