Is cultivation of Saussurea costus (Asterales: Asteraceae) sustaining its conservation?

Main Article Content

Chandra Prakash Kuniyal
Joel Thomas Heinen
Bir Singh Negi
Jagdish Chandra Kaim


Saussurea costus (Falc.) Lipsch., (Asteraceae) known in English as Costus, is a threatened Himalayan medicinal plant listed on CITES (2014) Appendix I, Schedule VI of the Wildlife Protection Act (India) 1972, and Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.  Wild collection of Costus is banned in India and permission is required for its cultivation and marketing.  In the past 100 years of cultivation, various policy and management issues have impacted commercialization of the species.  In 2015, we conducted surveys in the village of Kanol, Chamoli District, Uttarakhand, India to determine the status of Costus cultivation, problems associated with its marketing and the potential for expanded propagation to enhance local livelihoods. Forty-nine farmers in the study area were cultivating costus and interest in its cultivation had increased in the recent past due to the availability of governmental support.  Annually, 1,250–2,950 kg roots (dried) and 20–57 kg seeds from this plant were produced by farmers within the study area.  The area under Costus cultivation per farm was fairly constant (0.5 or 0.6 ha.) from 2012 to 2014, and the production of roots per farm ranged from 128 to 156 kg per year.  Market prices for dried roots per kg had decreased over time.  We found that regional and national marketing of the plant was not a problem for farmers, but export of cultivated products was a major challenge due to existing laws.  In addition, local understanding related to post-harvest value addition, and self-reliance in Costus cultivation, was generally poor.  Better national policies that increase the prospects for export, and more outreach to local villagers, are needed to improve the conservation and sustainable uses of Costus.


Article Details



Akhtar, M.S. & S. Riffat (1991). Field trial of Saussurea lappa roots against nematodes and Nigella sativa seeds against cestodes in children. The Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association 41(8): 185–187.

Baral, H.S., B. Sehgal, S. Mohsanin, K. Namgay & A.A. Khan (2014). Species and habitat conservation through small locally recognized and community managed special conservation sites. Journal of Threatened Taxa 6(5): 5677–5685.

Bull, J.W., A. Gordon, E.A. Law, K.B. Suttlea & E.J. Milner-Gulland (2014). Importance of baseline specification in evaluating conservation interventions and achieving no net loss of biodiversity. Conservation Biology 8(3): 799–809.

Buschke, F.T. (2015). The start up culture of conservation entrepreneurship. Conservation Biology 29(1): 300–302.

Chauhan, R.S., Y.M. Bahuguna, M.C. Nautiyal & J.H. Costa-Sάnchez (2018). First account of vivipary in Saussurea lappa (Decne.) Sch. Bip. (Asteraceae). Brazilian Journal of Botany 41(2): 507–514.

Choudhary, D., I. Ghosh, S. Chauhan, S. Bahti & M. Juyal (2013). The value chain approach for mountain development: case studies from Uttarakhand, India. ICIMOD Working Paper 2013/6, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal, 44pp.

CITES (2014). Appendices I, II & III, valid from 14 September 2014. Accessed on 10 October 2018. Retrieved from

Ens, E.J., P. Pert, P.A. Clarke, M. Budden, L. Clubb, B. Doran, C. Douras, J. Gaikwad, B. Gott, S. Leonard, J. Locke, J. Packer, G. Turpin & S. Wason (2015). Indigenous biocultural knowledge in ecosystem science and management: review and insight from Australia. Biological Conservation 181: 133–149.

Hajra, P.K. (1988). Saussurea costus (Falc.) Lipschitz Asteraceae, pp. 69–70. In: Nayar, M.P. & A.R.K. Sastry (eds.). Red Data Book of Indian Plants Volume 2. Botanical Survey of India, Howrah, 273pp.

Harvey, C.A., O. Komar, R. Chazdon, B.G. Ferguson, B. Finegan, D.M. Griffith, M. Martinez-Ramos, R. Nigh, L. Soto-Pinto, M V. Breugel & M. Wishne (2008). Integrating agricultural landscapes with biodiversity conservation in a Mesoamerican hotspot. Conservation Biology 22(1): 8–15.

Heinen, J.T., P.B. Yonzon & B. Leisure (1995). Fighting the illegal fur trade in Kathmandu, Nepal. Conservation Biology 9(2): 245–247.

Heinen, J.T., E. Shukurov & C. Sadykova (2001). Legislative and policy initiatives in biodiversity conservation in Kyrgyzstan. Post-Soviet Geography and Economics 42(7): 519–543.

Heinen, J.T. & D. Chapagain (2002). The expansion of species protection in Nepal: Advances and pitfalls in new efforts to implement and comply with CITES. Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy 5: 235–250.

Heinen, J.T. & R. Shrestha-Acharya (2011). The non-timber forest products sector in Nepal: emerging policy issues in plant conservation and utilization for sustainable development. Journal of Sustainable Forestry 30: 543–563.

Johnson, T.S., S.B. Narayan & D.B.A. Narayana (1997). Rapid in vitro propagation of Saussurea lappa, an endangered medicinal plant, through multiple shoot cultures. In Vitro Cellular and Molecular Biology – Plant 33(2): 128–130.

Kala, C.P. (2005). Indigenous uses, population density and conservation of threatened medicinal plants in protected areas of the Indian Himalayas. Conservation Biology 19(2): 368–378.

Kuniyal, C.P., Y.S. Rawat, O.S. Singh, J.C. Kuniyal & S.C.R. Vishvakarma (2005). Kuth (Saussurea lappa) cultivation in the cold desert environment of Lahaul Valley: arising threats and need to revive socio-economic values. Biodiversity and Conservation 14: 1035–1045.

Kuniyal, C.P. & R.C. Sundriyal (2013). Conservation salvage of Cordyceps sinensis collection in the Himalayan Mountains is neglected. Ecosystem Service 3: e40–e43.

Kuniyal, C.P., P.C. Kuniyal, J.S. Butola & R.C. Sundriyal (2013). Trends in the marketing of some important medicinal plants in Uttarakhand, India. International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services and Management 9(4): 324–329. 13732.2013.819531

Kuniyal, C.P., D.S. Rawat & R.C. Sundriyal (2015). Cultivation of Saussurea costus cannot be treated as ‘artificially propagated’. Current Science 108(9): 1587–1589.

Kuniyal, C.P. & B.S. Negi (2016). Export of cultivated Picrorhiza kurrooa is profitable but requires rigour. Current Science 111(11): 1738.

Kuniyal, C.P. & B.S. Negi (2018). Cultivation of the Himalayan seasoning Allium in a remote village of Uttarakhand, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 10(11): 12614–12617.

Lambooy, T. & Y. Levashova (2011). Opportunities and challenges for private sector entrepreneurship and investment in biodiversity, ecosystem services and nature conservation. International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management 7(4): 301–318.

Larsen, H.O. & C.S. Olsen (2007). Unsustainable collection and unfair trade, uncovering and assessing assumption regarding plants conservation. Biodiversity and Conservation 16: 1679–1697.

Liu, H., Y.B. Luo, J.T. Heinen, M. Bhat & Z.J. Liu (2014). Eat your orchid and have it too: A potentially new conservation formula for Chinese epiphytic medicinal orchids. Biodiversity and Conservation 23(5): 1215–1228.

Madhuri, K., K. Elango & S. Ponnusankar (2011). Saussurea lappa (Kuth root): review of its traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology. Oriental Pharmacy and Experimental Medicines 12(1): 1–9.

Okereke, C. & T.G. Ehresman (2015). International environmental justice and quest for green global economy: introduction to special issue. International Environment Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics 15: 5–11.

Pandey, M.M., S. Rastogi & A.K.S. Rawat (2007). Saussurea costus: botanical, chemical and pharmaceutical review of an Ayurvedic medicinal plant. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 100(3): 379–390.

Parekh, J. & N. Karathia (2006). Screening of some traditionally used medicinal plants for potential antibacterial activity. Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 68(6): 832–834.

Saha, D., D. Ved, K. Ravikumar & K. Haridasan (2015). Saussurea costus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T50126641A50131430. Downloaded on 25 October 2018. 2015-2.RLTS.T50126641A50131430.en.

Shrestha-Acharya, R. & J.T. Heinen (2006). Emerging policy issues on non-timber forest products in Nepal. Himalaya 26(1–2): 51–54.

Shrivastava, R.J. & J.T. Heinen (2005). Migration and home gardens in the Brahmaputra Valley, India. Journal of Ecological Anthropology 9: 20–34.

Smith-Hall, C., H.O. Larsen & M. Pouliot (2012). People, plants and health: a conceptual framework for assessing changes in medicinal plant consumption. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicines 8(43): 1–11.

TRAFFIC (2011). A Review of the Status of Saussurea costus (Falc.) Lipsch. in India and the Impact of its listing in CITES Appendix I A study by TRAFFIC India. Accessed on 03 November 2014. Retrieved from

TRAFFIC (2013). Overview of important international seizures of CITES-listed specimens in the European Union January to December 2012 Compiled by TRAFFIC April 2013. Accessed on 28 October 2014. Retrieved from pdf

USDA (2018). Agricultural Research Service, National Plant Germplasm System. 2018. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN-Taxonomy). National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. detail.aspx?id=319258. Accessed 25 October 2018.

Walter, K.S. & H.J. Gillett (eds.) (1998). 1997 IUCN Redlist of Threatened Plants (Saussurea costus p. 190). Compiled by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. IUCN - The World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK, ixiv+862pp. Application for issue of documentation regarding export/import/re-export of CITES listed fauna and flora. Retrieved from

WPA (1972). The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, (No. 53 of 1972), (9th September, 1972). Accessed on 28 October 2014. Retrieved from,%201972.pdf

Zahara, K., S. Tabassum, S. Sabir, M. Arshad, R. Qureshi, M.S. Amjad & S.K. Chaudhari (2014). A review of therapeutic potential of Saussurea lappa - an endangered plant from Himalaya. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine 7 (Suppl. 1): S60–S69.