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Plant Expedition

Plant Expedition

Valparai Plant Expedition – July 2019

valparai shola and tea plantations - www.happybotanist.com

Located in the anamalai hill range, Valparai is a beautiful town surrounded by tea and coffee plantations, and to the top of it, are the beautiful rainforests and the shola grasslands! They are the true jewels of the Anamalais which hold great biodiversity and is a home to several endemic plants and animals. Many plants found here are not found anywhere else in the world. It is one treasure that we should protect for the well-being of us all! These rainforests give the much needed water to all the people who live in the plains.

There are many dams in in the Anamalai hill ranges. Aliyar, Sholayar, Nirar, Kadampaarai are some of the well-known dams located around Valparai. Also, Thirumoorthy dam and Amaravathi dam get their water from these hills. But we don’t realize the importance of these forests and just put up a plain question – “What is use of this plant to us?”. But most of us fail to understand that it is important for every species of plant and animal to exist in this world. It exists in nature for a reason. Every plant or animal that exists has it’s part to play in nature and without proper knowledge, we fail to recognize it and ignore their rights to survive.

This post is about my recent trip to Valparai and about the plants I found. All the plants that I found and photographed at were all growing on the roadsides! If you have keen eyes and the patience, you could see all these plants and more than this too!

Let me start with Impatiens, which is my favorite plant genus. My last trip was the best of my Valparai trips so far (I’ve been there 4 times before). I was very luck to find 4 Impatiens species on the same day!

Impatiens elegans – Elegant balsam
This plant can be found in abundance in Valparai. It can be seen wherever there are streams and streamlets. You can even find them growing on rocks in between streams. Elegant balsam is found only in South Western ghats. i.e., only in the states of Kerala and Tamilnadu.

Impatiens elegans

Impatiens maculata – Spotted balsam
A beautiful plant producing butterfly like flowers. The stems of this plant are dotted with purple spots hence the name “maculata“. Spotted balsam is found only in South Western Ghats. i.e., only in the states of Kerala and Tamilnadu.

Impatiens maculata

Impatiens viscosa – Sticky balsam
The same condition applies to this Impatiens as well. It can be seen on dripping rocks or in places where it is dripping constantly. These plants love cool, shady places dripping with water almost constantly! A perfect Impatiens habitat! Sticky Balsam is endemic to Southern Western Ghats.

Impatiens viscosa
Look how wet the plant is and the rock behind it! A perfect place 🙂

Impatiens dasysperma – Shining balsam
This was also found next to a stream and has cute pink flowers with a long spur. Shining balsam is endemic to Western Ghats.

Impatiens dasysperma

There were beautiful streams wherever there is a shola around. This is one such stream which had Impatiens elegans and Impatiens maculata all around it!

Valparai shola stream
Impatiens elegans on the right and Impatiens maculata on the bottom right!

Torenia bicolor – Two colored wishbone flower
This flower is a beautiful in a very dark purple. It is so dark that it is called “kakkaa poovu” in malayalam meaning “crow flower”. It grows in water logged places and damp places. This plant can also be seen in the paddy fields in Kerala.

Malaxis versicolor – Colorful malaxis
This is a beautiful terrestrial orchid that occurs in gregarious groups. If you find one plant, there should be many of them around. It has tiny flowers which look beautiful under a macro lens!

Malaxis versicolor plants

Asystasia dalzelliana – Violet Asystasia

Gloriosa superba – Flame lily

What an attractive and beautiful flower this one is! The flower is inverted when it is a bud and the petals become upright and the upper half becomes bright red. It is a climber and clings to the nearby support with its leaf tips that get modified as tendrils.

Henckelia incana – Hairy stone flower

and this Silver back fern! I was really shocked when I turned this frond to see its spores. It was all silver!!

silver back fern

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