A Treasure Trove Of Nature
Meghalaya is a treasure trove of Nature, with its richly varied and dense endemic, exotic and cultivated flora. Nature, in its generous abundance, had bestowed on Meghalaya a unique array of vegetation, ranging from tropical and sub-tropical to temperate or near temperate. This is due to the diverse topography, varied and abundant rainfall and differential climatic and edaphic conditions of the State, within small regions. Biotic factors have also played an important role, at places decisive.
Geographical position of Meghalaya has it appears favoured immigration and introduction of different plant species from the neighbouring states of the North Eastern India and also countries like China, Tibet and Burma.
Geological factors, like the connection of Meghalaya with the landmasses of Peninsular India, the Pacific Islands, Madagaskar and some other portions of Africa might also have influenced Meghalaya's flora and fauna to some extent.
Depending on the varied scales of rainfall at different parts of the year and at different altitudes and places, both tropical and temperate vegetation occur in Meghalaya. The following four classes of Agro-climatic zones are found:
The Plant World
The genetic constitutions of different plants or life forms can be classified as below:
A Botanical Wonder
Meghalaya's endemic Pitcher Plant or Nepenthes Khasiana HK remains till now an explicable phenomenon to the botanists. It occurs in the Jarain area of the Jaintia Hills and the Baghmara area of the Garo Hills.
Found in the Khasi hills, this plant is popularly called by the Khasi people as "Tiew-Rakot", which means demon-flower or devouring-plant. The Jaintias call it "Kset Phare", 'Kset' means net with a lid and 'Phare' means fly. The Garos call the plant "Memang-Koksi", which literally means the basket of the devil.
The most interesting part of the Pitcher Plant is its leaf. The leaf is modified into different organs, such as the lamina, the tendril, the pitcher and the lid. Over the pitcher, a lid is formed. It is an outgrowth on the face of the leaf near its apex. The lid grows and then become sealed over the mouth of the pitcher. When the plant attains maturity, the lid opens up. The pitcher is designed to catch insects.
The World Of Orchids
Meghalaya is a storehouse of richly varied and colorful orchids with as many as 300 species, which grow all over the Khasi, Jaintia and Garo Hills in the meadows, hill-slopes and swamps, even on the wayside. Orchids are found in Meghalaya growing at different heights, mostly on trees, on mossy rocks and also on the ground. Meghalaya is rightly called a "Land of Orchids".
The forests of Meghalaya are treasure house of valuable products such a timber, fuel wood, fodder, resin, tannin, gums, shellac, fibre, latex, essential oils, fats, edible fruits, honey and a large number of medicinal plants. Meghalaya is well known for bay leaves and Cinnamon. Morus Alba, Quercus Semiserrata and a number of other tree species play a vital role in the economy of the State, being the host plants for rearing of silk worms for sericulture.
Meghalayans in general are fond of decorating their courtyards with seasonal flowers and one comes across Dahlia, Canna, Gladiolus, Begonia, Tropaeolum, Aster, Polargonium, Antirrhinum, Crinum, Celosia, Kniphofia, Impatiens, Chrysanthemum, Petunias, Pansy, Calendula, Sweet Peas and Salvia. Meany climbers like Bougainvillea, Rosa, Jasminum, etc are also quite common. Multiplicity of orchids like Phaius, Dendrobium and Cymbidium Spp. are also cultivated.
The forests of Meghalaya are a rich source of Timber. The state as such is surplus in timber production and the bulk of timber for trade originates from private forests. Timber trade forms an integral and vital element in the economy of Meghalaya. Some of the important tree species, which yield valuable timber for trade, are Khasi Pine, Sal, Teak, and Bamboos. In Meghalaya forests the rubber-yielding plant of Ficus Elastica Roxb, belonging to the family of Moraceae is common. Lac and Gum are obtained from forests in Meghalaya.
Meghalayan forests offer tremendous scope for sericulture or silkworm rearing industry.
Also famous for its honey, the Meghalayan honey is derived mostly from forests in beehives. Nowadays, the honey collection process is done in artificial boxes also, instead of hives on trees.
The major crop plants of Meghalaya are Paddy, Maize, Millets, Pulses, Potato, Jute and Mesta, Ginger, Turmeric, Black Pepper, Sugar Cane, Oil Seeds. Both are Canut and Betelvine are important cash crops of the State. Khasis are used to chew betel nuts and betel leaves since time immemorial. The State is basically a home of many horticultural plants such as fruit bearing trees, cultivated fruit bearing plants, citrus varieties of fruits.
Vegetables are grown extensively in the central plateau of the Khasi Hills with loamy soil and also in the plains of the Garo Hills. Recently Tea and Coffee are being grown in lands abandoned after jhuming.
Plants That Cure And Heal
Different parts of many plants growing in Meghalaya have been put to medicinal use.
Among the important and recognised medicinal plants found and cultivated in Meghalaya are Ipecac, Rauvolfia Serpentina, Cinchona, Abromine, Chaulmoogra Oil, Croton Oil, Eucalyptus, Castor Oil, Chiretta, Solanum Khasianum, Casearia Vareca, Zanthoxylum Armatum, Hedyotis Scandens, Paederia Foetida, Salix Alba, Anacardium Occidentale, Cinnamomum, Taxus Baccata.