|The first cryptogamic garden in India was inaugurated on Sunday, July 11 in Uttarakhand’s Dehradun district. The garden is a first of its kind and houses a plethora of cryptogams species.
The cryptogamic garden has been established at Deoban in the Dehradun range of the Research circle. It is at a commanding height of 2,700 metres in an area of 3 acres.
Sanjiv Chaturvedi, CCF (Research Wing), Uttarakhand Forest Department told PBNS that they chose Deoban as the place for the garden because Deoban’s forest has Deodar, Oak, and is pollution-free which would support the proper growth of the Cryptogams.
“We chose Deoban because of low pollution levels and moisture needed for these species, otherwise also it is a good natural habitat of these species,” said Sanjiv Chaturvedi.
The Cryptogamic garden houses around 76 species of lichens, ferns, and fungi. These species require a moist condition to grow, which the Deoban’s forest provides well.
Know the Cryptogams
The word cryptogamic originates from the Greek word, ‘Kryptos meaning “hidden” and “gameein” meaning “to marry”. Thus, cryptogamic refers to “hidden reproduction”. Cryptogams are one of the oldest groups of plant species, existing since the Jurassic era. A cryptogamic species does not produce any seed or flower. These non-seed-bearing plants include algae, bryophytes, lichens, ferns, and fungi.
Three groups i.e. algae, bryophytes (moss; liverworts), lichens, comprises primitive, simple species where the plant body is thalloid (not differentiated into true roots, stems, and leaves).
Importance of cryptogams
The cryptogamic organisms play a vital role in the ecosystem. Algae, one of the most primitive organisms, are excellent at cleaning the environment. Similarly, mosses prevent soil erosion by binding the soil.
Further, the cryptogamic species are used for the creation of various medicines, scents, and natural colours. Human beings and animals also feed on them.
Algae are healthy sources of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and vitamins. It is used as a food ingredient in several countries like China, Japan, Norway, Scotland, etc. Further, it can also be used as a liquid fertilizer which helps in repairing nitrogen levels in the soil.
Bryophytes (mosses, liverworts) too, like algae clean the environment. This cryptogamic species monitors air pollution, prevents soil erosion, and helps in soil formation over the bare rocky surface. Mosses have a high water retention capacity, which makes them suitable for the transportation and packaging of plants. Mosses are also indicators of mineral deposits.
Ferns, a unique group of plants, are grown as ornamental plants. They are indicators of the moisture regime of the area.
Similarly, lichens are equally important for the environment. They are not only pollution monitors but are also important due to their nutritional values. They are a source of nutrition for snails, termites, caterpillars, slugs, etc. Cladonia rangiferina (Reindeer moss) is the main food for reindeers (a kind of deer) in polar countries.
Moreover, lichens are very useful to people in diverse cultures, especially as a source of drugs, medicines, perfumery, foodstuff, dyes, bio-monitoring, and other useful compounds. Eg, lichens have been used as coloring agents in the leather industry, in the cosmetic industry for making items like perfumes, incessant, etc.
Fungi are essential to many household and industrial processes. They are used for making bread, wine, beer, and certain cheeses. Mushrooms, a type of fungi, are low in calories and sodium, fat-free, cholesterol-free, are nutritious for the body. Humans and animals both feed on them.
The conservation of these species would also benefit the fauna of the region. For eg, certain birds use mosses for making their nests.
Cryptogams in Uttarakhand
Uttarakhand is home to a variety of flora and fauna. According to the website of Uttrakhand Tourism, the State is home to around 4,000 species of plants, that belong to 1,198 genera under 192 families. According to various research studies, Uttarakhand has recorded 539 species of lichens, 346 species of algae, 478 species of bryophytes, and 365 species of pteridophytes.
Cryptogams in India
In India, there are 7,411 species (14.98%) of algae belonging to 735 genera that are recorded and described under 206 families.
About 9% of world pteridophytes (ferns) occur in India or only in 2.5% landmass of the world. Ferns and fern-allies are the second largest group of plants in Indian flora and represented by 33 families, 130 genera and 1,267 species. Among them, 70 species are endemic to India.
Lichens comprise over 2,900 species which is 14.8% of the world’s known species under phylum Ascomycota, of which about 540 (over 18%) species are endemic to Indian boundaries.