World Environment Day: Scientists find ‘vanished’ hedulo plant, regrow it in Machia Biological Park
Hedulo had vanished from five — Barmer, Jodhpur, Jalore, Jhunjhunun and Jaisalmer —sites in Rajasthan in the 1990s.jaipur Updated: Jun 04, 2017 20:22 IST
This comes as good news for nature lovers on World Environment Day. Scientists at the Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI) have come up with a protocol to grow ‘ceropegia bulbosa variety lushii’, a plant locally known as hedulo, which had vanished from five — Barmer, Jodhpur, Jalore, Jhunjhunun and Jaisalmer —sites in Rajasthan in the 1990s.
A few years ago, CAZRI scientists found the plant at Jhalawar (a previously reported site) and Jalore (an unreported site) and collected seeds from the plants. The seeds were then grown at CAZRI’s garden and in 2014 and 2015 the plants were reintroduced in the Machia Biological Park, where they are growing well.
Dr Suresh Kumar, who steered the Ministry of environment and forest and climate control (MoEF&CC) programme at CAZRI, and has recently retired, said this year the theme for World Environment Day is “Connecting people to nature”.
“This encourages us to go out and see nature closely. To not just watch its beauty but also see how badly habitats are being destroyed making many a species threatened and vulnerable to extinction,” said Kumar.
It’s normal for some species to become rare and threatened in the course of evolution, but what worries ecologists is the fast pace at which it’s taking place. “We have been trying to understand such phenomena in the Thar desert and have studied why hedulo vanished from the earlier sites,” said Kumar.
According to CAZRI scientists, overexploitation of hedulo tubers — which is endemic to the Indian Desert — had led to its drastic decline in population and made it threatened.
As it grows in hilly areas, destruction of forests removes associated plant species and also bees and insects culminating in the failure of pollination and consequently no fruit and seed setting takes place,” said Kumar said.
When there are no new seeds, no new saplings are born while extracting bulbs of older plants kill them. Also due to the destruction of forests, rocky surfaces don’t favour its regeneration. A complex interplay of all these factors made hedulo a rare species.
Locals said that earlier the plant could be easily spotted in the wild, but not now. They also confirmed that its tubers are eaten by cowboys, cattlemen and even wild animals.
“Hedulo is not only of botanical importance but is also economically important as tubers are a source of sugar, gum, fats, crude fibres and medicines,” Dr Kumar said.
“This study is an eye opener emphasising the need for awareness among general public for not uprooting its bulbs. That is possible only if we connect ourselves with nature,” said Kumar.
“Simultaneously efforts for its conservation should also be a priority for both government and non-government organisations,” the scientist added.