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E-Flora Kerala - Introduction

Situated along the southwest corner of India, the state of Kerala is in the tropical belt. The varied topographical features coupled with high rainfall favoured the formation of different habitat such as the montane temperate forests (Shola) and grassland to the lowland mangroves along the estuaries and sea coasts. Each vegetation type has its own species composition. A remarkable feature of the state is the formation of tropical rain forests in the Western Ghats, facing the windward side. The tropical rain forests are known for the rich biodiversity. Angiosperms or the flowering plants are the principal plant group in the state. The flora of the state has fascinated the Europeans which led to the publication of the first botanical accounts of the plants of the Malabar Coast. Thereafter a number of floristic studies at National, State, Regional and Local level have been carried out. These studies brought out the plant wealth of the state. Though the state of Kerala forms only 1.18 percent of the country, nearly one fourth of the flowering plants reported are occurring. The accelerated studies on the flora of Districts, Protected Areas, Taxonomic revision of Families as well as Genera, described many new taxa as well as new record of occurrences. Every year new taxa and new record of occurrences are reported from the country. The annual publication of the Botanical Survey of India -Plant Discoveries provide the updated account of the new additions to the flora of the country. A scan of the Plant discovery of BSI, it is found that it is from the Southern Western Ghats and Northeast, more number of new taxa are published every year. In the Southern Western Ghats, it is from the state of Kerala, more number of new taxa are published. Apart from the species covered in the Plant Discoveries, several ornamental and horticultural plants were also introduced in Kerala. Some have escaped from cultivation and getting established in vacant lands, roadsides and even in degraded forest areas. We have been maintaining and updating the database on the flowering plants of Kerala for the past 25 years.

Now a days, apart from Biologists, the general public is also interested to know the plants in their premises, gardens as well as public places. It has been observed that often plants are sold under wrong identity, especially horticultural plants as well as medicinal plants. Conventional flora will not be helpful to the public. There are several websites providing images, nomenclature and brief descriptions of plants at Regional, State, National level. The world Flora Online project ( www.worldfloraonline.org ) is envisaged to provide taxonomic account of the plants of the world. These sites are visited by people to know the identity of the plants. The E-Flora Kerala is an online website ( www.eflorakerala.com ) to provide updated account of the flowering plants in Kerala, on their correct/accepted name with author citation, relevant Synonyms, Common/trade names, local names (Malayalam and Tamil) habit, habitat, description, geographic distribution, known places of occurrences in Kerala, flowering and fruiting period, endemism, conservation status of the species so far evaluated, brief medicinal use, timber use, etc. The nomenclature of species and author citations were checked with Plants of the World online, Royal Botanic Garden, Kew ( https://powo.science.kew.org ). Colour photographs can greatly ease the process of identification, especially for the common man. So every effort is made to include the as many as photographs of plants, with emphasis on diagnostic features.

The System of Classification of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (APG) is getting more acceptances among the Taxonomists all over the world. Therefore, it is important to follow the Classification of the families according to the APG System. Though APG system is adopted in modern plant systematic studies, the Bentham and Hooker’s system is still followed in general floristic studies as well as for the arrangements of specimens in Indian Herbaria. Thus, in the E-Flora of Kerala, families are arranged as per the modified Bentham and Hooker’s system along with APG IV System. Search facilities are provided to find taxonomic groups under families both in Bentham and Hooker’s and APG Systems.

The E-flora Kerala is developed in such a way that whenever new taxa are uploaded, corresponding updates will take place on the total number of species and all other search categories. There is provision to search plants by family, genus, species, flower colour, habit, habitat, epiphytes, stem parasites, root parasite, saprophytes, etc. Apart from taxonomic groups, user categories like medicinal plants, edible fruits, vegetables, weeds, garden plants, poisonous plants, locality, protected areas, district wise, etc. Nakshatra Virsham, Rasi Virsham, Thriphala, Thrikadu, Dashapushpam, Dashamoolam, Pancha moolam etc. can also be searched. All permutations and combinations are possible among the search categories. The E-flora of Kerala site also contains Introduction, Location and Physiography, Geology and Soil, Climate, Phytogeography, Vegetation, Habit diversity, Review of literature, Floristic diversity, Endemism, Exotics, Rare and Threatened species, Conservation, Protected Areas in Kerala, Discussion and References.