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Books > History > Jungle Trees of Central India (A Field Guide For Tree Spotters)
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Jungle Trees of Central India (A Field Guide For Tree Spotters)
Jungle Trees of Central India (A Field Guide For Tree Spotters)
Description

About the Book

 

Covering an area the size of France and encompassing five of India's most-visited tiger reserves, the forests of Central India are one of the country's most iconic wildscapes. Jungle Trees of Central India is a lavishly illustrated and user-friendly field guide to every wild tree you will see in this entire region.

 

A culmination of four years of research, the book has over 2000 photographs with thumbnail keys to all the

bark, flowers, fruit and leaves. An ideal companion for your travels in the region, this book will turn you into an expert tree spotter and take your enjoyment of wild places to another level.

 

Preface

 

I like trees. Especially wild ones.

I feel a deep empathy in their company I touch them and delight in their tints and perfumes. There's nothing else I'd prefer to have in my field of vision, except, perhaps, other trees or plants. But getting to know them, to the extent I am capable, lies at the core of my relationship with trees. It has to do with cultivating their acquaintance, with trying to understand how they live and why they die, their infinitely clever ways of adapting in their natural settings to the turning seasons, to drought, wind and fire, and, of course, to attack and attrition at the hands of man. It's a wonderfully rich weave of stories with more than its share of mystery.

 

I don't expect you, dear Reader, to feel the same way I do about trees. But I hope that if you wanted to, this book could help you arrive at a vantage point similar to mine without the effort it took me to get here. Learning how to identify a tree in the wild is just a starting point. The Journey thence can be exhilarating and if I can imbue you with even a thimbleful of the awe and wonder I have felt, I will feel it has been worthwhile.

 

I'm not a scientist by training or aptitude. I have felt free, of course, to ferret and delve into the rich botanic literature. This book owes everything to generations of botanists, foresters and wildlife-wallahs who have paved the path to what we now know - or think we know.

 

This book also owes a lot to walking in the jungle. It began more than 20 years ago when I was building a small home near Pachmarhi in the Satpura hills. My friend Golak and I would entice a forester friend, Nishikant, to go walking with us on one of those wonderful dirt tracks leading off the Pachmarhi plateau into dense, broad-leaved jungle. It was Nishikant Jadhav who patiently taught us how to recognize jungle trees and helped us when we first began fumblingly to try and find our way through a dry-as-dust scientific flora. It already seems like such a long time ago.

 

Introduction

 

WHAT COUNTS AS A TREE?

As a writer about trees, I have had to square up to the question of how one tells a tree from a large shrub. There are various common-sense criteria, all of which seem quite reasonable. The trouble is they are not all compatible.

 

Colin Tudge famously said that 'a tree is a big plant with a stick up the middle' and then went on to show how all the most obvious ways of interpreting that simple statement are fraught with risk. 'A stick up the middle' alludes, of course, to a well-developed trunk. Big plants with lots of less developed trunks, by this standard, should fall in the category of shrubs. The problem is that some plants exhibit a 'trunk-forming habit' in some circumstances but not in others.

 

What about 'big plant'? Does one draw the line at 3 metres, well above the height of a grown man? Or perhaps at 4.5m? Some authors insist that the minimum height of a tree should be 6m. Others specify dbh - the diameter of the trunk measured at breast height. Here again, the problem is that the same species may be dwarfed or prostrate in adverse, rocky conditions and rise to incontestable treetrunkness in better soil.

 

So it's tricky, at best.

 

'Ask a child', suggests another author, implying that the matter is so intuitive and obvious that we don't need all the criteria and mensuration.

 

Well ... like I did in my book on Delhi's trees, I have relied on my own instinctive sense of whether or not a plant seems tree-like. If you find yourself wondering why a particular shrubby plant has been included in this book, it is because, at least sometimes, it grows unmistakably tree-like somewhere in the jungle. It's as simple as that. No footrules and measuring tapes. No rigid criteria.

 

COMMON NAMES

All the trees in this book have been labelled with one common name chosen from a range of local names used in central India. There are often a multitude of names for the same tree. Sometimes - as with aam, aama, amb, ambe, amri (for the mango, Mangifera indica) - you can see that it's basically the same name skidding and morphing across invisible boundaries of dialect and Inflection. In some other cases - lendia, sejhi, seina, tendiya (for Lagerstroemia parviflora) - it seems as if the names have been reinvented in different locales.

 

I don't feel I could possibly have collected all the tree names in every single language and dialect from this vast region. But I do believe that all the main ones are here, in subordinate type, listed under the primary, assigned names of the trees that I have used in this book.

 

Choosing between competing names usually happened quite easily, with one name with wide currency standing out above the rest. At other umes, it was not so simple when I had to choose between 2 or 3 names with equally compelling credentials. On the other hand, there are instances where the same name is used for more than one tree - this happens quite frequently where no distinction is made between closely related but different species of the same genus. Some common names get repeated because they derive from or allude to a single prominent attribute, such as 'sour fruit' - and so more than one tree may acquire the epithet 'khatua', for Instance. In such cases I have had to subdue the name for one of the contending species and foreground it for the other.

 

The downside of using common names is that the same tree will often get labelled with different names in separate regions. Readers of my book on Delhi's trees might be disconcerted to find that the tree known as 'arjun' in Delhi is called 'kahua' in central India, and that Delhi's 'arnaltas' becomes 'kirvara' in this book. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is! Without a rigorous procedure of standardizing common names - which can only happen in one language - we will always be faced with multiple names. And If attempts at standardizing common English names of birds hold any lessons for us, it is not to fiddle and fuss too much with names that have become firmly embedded in folk memory. As for botanic names, I suspect the general public is much too averse to learning these names to accept them as substitutes.

 

BOTANIC NAMES

 

Scientific names of plants are two-word names in Latin - binomials - with the first name denoting the genus (e.g. Limonia) and the second a species within that genus (e.g. Limonia acidissima). If these names were immutable

they might have solved the difficulty posed by multiple common names but botanical names themselves are subject to change. Limonia acidissima is the modern scientific name of kaithha or the Indian wood apple. Or at least that is what some botanists maintain. Others say it should properly be called Feronia elephantum. And if you probe a little further, you will find that there is an alarmingly long list of 'discarded' scientific names trailing behind these two names. At some point in time, the Indian wood apple has also been called Ansifolium limonia, Crateva balanghas, Crateva vallanga, Feronia balanghas, Feronia limonia and Schinus limonia. The problem doesn't end there. There is a completely different plant that was also called Limonia acidissima. Sorting these names and keeping track of changes can be, as you can see, a daunting task.

 

Why do scientific names change? There are a number of reasons, but, very briefly, it's because they are obliged to conform to certain internationally agreed rules, such as a rule which says that the earliest validly published name will always be given priority over subsequent names. Older names with a claim - to validity have an awkward habit of turning up just when a name seems 'settled'.

 

Take a hypothetical tropical tree that might have been independently 'discovered' and named in the early 19th century by four European botanists exploring injava, Malaya, Ceylon and Assam. Each one of these botanists would have given this tree their own scientific name and - without jet planes and the Internet - it is unlikely that any of them would have learned about the names which the others were using. A century or so later, perhaps, a taxonomist visiting herbaria in Holland, France, Britain and India finds dried specimens of that same tree under four separate names. His task would be to find out which of the botanical names was the earliest to have been (validly) published, so that he could then treat the other three names as superseded synonyms.

 

There are other possible scenarios which can lead to a botanical name-change: with molecular analysis and DNA studies, botanists are discovering relationships between plants where none were thought to exist - and conversely, none where plants were thought to be closely related. So the systematic ordering of plants into genera and families has been, and will probably continue for a long time to be, in a state of upheaval. Every time a genus is split into two it nearly always necessitates the coining of are collapsed into one, it obliterates one of the extant generic names.

 

So for one reason or another, botanical names are inconstant and, while they may be meaningful (even as they are discarded) for taxonomists, they do not work quite so well for a lay public. Take the case of the feathery- leaved, thorny Acacias which many people have learned to identify generically even if they find it hard to tell one particular species from another. How upsetting is it to learn that the name Acacia has recently been 'taken away' by Australian wattles and that all Indian species of Acacia will in future have to be called Vachellia or Senegalia) (See page 365 'The War over the Name Acacia")

 

You will sometimes come across a third word added to a Latin binomial, signalling that a particular plant ought to be regarded as a 'subspecies' or 'variety'. Both these terms signify finer levels of distinction within a species, indicating that for some reason (geographical isolation being the most common) two or more populations of a species have come to exhibit differences in flower colour or some other characteristics of the species. Scientists need distinctions like 'subspecies' and 'variety' to capture a sense of a species in flux but the precise distinction between the two terms has proved to be quite difficult to nail down. Some people argue that there is or ought to be a qualitative difference between 'subspecies' and 'variety' but in practice it has been found that their usage has become largely a matter of cultural preference. US botanists tend to favour 'variety'; Europeans prefer 'subspecies'. At least In botany, subspecies and variety have become more or less interchangeable now.

 

The full scientific name of a plant goes beyond the binomial to include a citation of the author who is credited with validly publishing the name. At the back of this book (pages 364-82), I have listed the full scientific names, including authors, alphabetically by genera, along with hsts of discarded (superseded) names. Use this section if you need to look up a tree when you suspect that the only botanical name you know might be an older, discarded one.

 

Contents

 

PREFACE

INTRODUCTION

What Counts as a Tree?

6

Tree Names

7

Common names

7

Botanic names

7

Pronouncing Local Names

9

Parts of a Tree

10

How to Use This Book

12

Navigating the Keys

14

The Leaf Scheme

15

OVERVIEW

What's Central India?

16

The Lie of the land

18

The Ground Beneath Our Feet

19

Deccan Trap

19

Vindhyan rocks

20

The Oldest rocks

21

Gondwana rocks

22

Alluvium

23

Laterite

23

The Character of Central India's Jungles

24

forest Types

Surrei (Sal) forest

25

Mixed deciduous forest

26

Sagon (Teak) forest

27

Savanah woodland

28

Anjan-dominated mixed forest

29

Pure Dhok forest

29

Riverine forests and rocky gorges

30

Subtropical hill forest

31

horn forest

31

Seasons in the Jungle

32

Why are new leaves (mostly) red?

35

Flowers in the jungle

35

Forestry in Central India

37

The Colonial period

38

Independent India

40

Hope for the Future

44

The Best Places to go Tree-Spotting

45

THE KEYS

Using the Keys

46

Bark Key by Textures

48

Flower Key by Colour

64

Fruit Key by Forms

76

THE TREE CATALOGUE

Trees with Simple Leaves

Untoothed leaves

87

Toothed leaves

205

Lobed leaves

253

Trees with Compound Leaves

Digitate leaves

271

Pinnate leaves

291

Twice-pinnate leaves

337

BACK OF THE BOOK

Tree Names - Authors &: Synonyms

364

Acknowledgements

383

Index

384

 

Jungle Trees of Central India (A Field Guide For Tree Spotters)

Item Code:
NAG633
Cover:
Paperback
Edition:
2013
ISBN:
9780143420743
Language:
English
Size:
10.5 inch X 6.5 inch
Pages:
400 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Other Details:
Weight of the Book: 1.2 kg
Price:
$85.00   Shipping Free - 4 to 6 days
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About the Book

 

Covering an area the size of France and encompassing five of India's most-visited tiger reserves, the forests of Central India are one of the country's most iconic wildscapes. Jungle Trees of Central India is a lavishly illustrated and user-friendly field guide to every wild tree you will see in this entire region.

 

A culmination of four years of research, the book has over 2000 photographs with thumbnail keys to all the

bark, flowers, fruit and leaves. An ideal companion for your travels in the region, this book will turn you into an expert tree spotter and take your enjoyment of wild places to another level.

 

Preface

 

I like trees. Especially wild ones.

I feel a deep empathy in their company I touch them and delight in their tints and perfumes. There's nothing else I'd prefer to have in my field of vision, except, perhaps, other trees or plants. But getting to know them, to the extent I am capable, lies at the core of my relationship with trees. It has to do with cultivating their acquaintance, with trying to understand how they live and why they die, their infinitely clever ways of adapting in their natural settings to the turning seasons, to drought, wind and fire, and, of course, to attack and attrition at the hands of man. It's a wonderfully rich weave of stories with more than its share of mystery.

 

I don't expect you, dear Reader, to feel the same way I do about trees. But I hope that if you wanted to, this book could help you arrive at a vantage point similar to mine without the effort it took me to get here. Learning how to identify a tree in the wild is just a starting point. The Journey thence can be exhilarating and if I can imbue you with even a thimbleful of the awe and wonder I have felt, I will feel it has been worthwhile.

 

I'm not a scientist by training or aptitude. I have felt free, of course, to ferret and delve into the rich botanic literature. This book owes everything to generations of botanists, foresters and wildlife-wallahs who have paved the path to what we now know - or think we know.

 

This book also owes a lot to walking in the jungle. It began more than 20 years ago when I was building a small home near Pachmarhi in the Satpura hills. My friend Golak and I would entice a forester friend, Nishikant, to go walking with us on one of those wonderful dirt tracks leading off the Pachmarhi plateau into dense, broad-leaved jungle. It was Nishikant Jadhav who patiently taught us how to recognize jungle trees and helped us when we first began fumblingly to try and find our way through a dry-as-dust scientific flora. It already seems like such a long time ago.

 

Introduction

 

WHAT COUNTS AS A TREE?

As a writer about trees, I have had to square up to the question of how one tells a tree from a large shrub. There are various common-sense criteria, all of which seem quite reasonable. The trouble is they are not all compatible.

 

Colin Tudge famously said that 'a tree is a big plant with a stick up the middle' and then went on to show how all the most obvious ways of interpreting that simple statement are fraught with risk. 'A stick up the middle' alludes, of course, to a well-developed trunk. Big plants with lots of less developed trunks, by this standard, should fall in the category of shrubs. The problem is that some plants exhibit a 'trunk-forming habit' in some circumstances but not in others.

 

What about 'big plant'? Does one draw the line at 3 metres, well above the height of a grown man? Or perhaps at 4.5m? Some authors insist that the minimum height of a tree should be 6m. Others specify dbh - the diameter of the trunk measured at breast height. Here again, the problem is that the same species may be dwarfed or prostrate in adverse, rocky conditions and rise to incontestable treetrunkness in better soil.

 

So it's tricky, at best.

 

'Ask a child', suggests another author, implying that the matter is so intuitive and obvious that we don't need all the criteria and mensuration.

 

Well ... like I did in my book on Delhi's trees, I have relied on my own instinctive sense of whether or not a plant seems tree-like. If you find yourself wondering why a particular shrubby plant has been included in this book, it is because, at least sometimes, it grows unmistakably tree-like somewhere in the jungle. It's as simple as that. No footrules and measuring tapes. No rigid criteria.

 

COMMON NAMES

All the trees in this book have been labelled with one common name chosen from a range of local names used in central India. There are often a multitude of names for the same tree. Sometimes - as with aam, aama, amb, ambe, amri (for the mango, Mangifera indica) - you can see that it's basically the same name skidding and morphing across invisible boundaries of dialect and Inflection. In some other cases - lendia, sejhi, seina, tendiya (for Lagerstroemia parviflora) - it seems as if the names have been reinvented in different locales.

 

I don't feel I could possibly have collected all the tree names in every single language and dialect from this vast region. But I do believe that all the main ones are here, in subordinate type, listed under the primary, assigned names of the trees that I have used in this book.

 

Choosing between competing names usually happened quite easily, with one name with wide currency standing out above the rest. At other umes, it was not so simple when I had to choose between 2 or 3 names with equally compelling credentials. On the other hand, there are instances where the same name is used for more than one tree - this happens quite frequently where no distinction is made between closely related but different species of the same genus. Some common names get repeated because they derive from or allude to a single prominent attribute, such as 'sour fruit' - and so more than one tree may acquire the epithet 'khatua', for Instance. In such cases I have had to subdue the name for one of the contending species and foreground it for the other.

 

The downside of using common names is that the same tree will often get labelled with different names in separate regions. Readers of my book on Delhi's trees might be disconcerted to find that the tree known as 'arjun' in Delhi is called 'kahua' in central India, and that Delhi's 'arnaltas' becomes 'kirvara' in this book. I'm sorry, but that's just how it is! Without a rigorous procedure of standardizing common names - which can only happen in one language - we will always be faced with multiple names. And If attempts at standardizing common English names of birds hold any lessons for us, it is not to fiddle and fuss too much with names that have become firmly embedded in folk memory. As for botanic names, I suspect the general public is much too averse to learning these names to accept them as substitutes.

 

BOTANIC NAMES

 

Scientific names of plants are two-word names in Latin - binomials - with the first name denoting the genus (e.g. Limonia) and the second a species within that genus (e.g. Limonia acidissima). If these names were immutable

they might have solved the difficulty posed by multiple common names but botanical names themselves are subject to change. Limonia acidissima is the modern scientific name of kaithha or the Indian wood apple. Or at least that is what some botanists maintain. Others say it should properly be called Feronia elephantum. And if you probe a little further, you will find that there is an alarmingly long list of 'discarded' scientific names trailing behind these two names. At some point in time, the Indian wood apple has also been called Ansifolium limonia, Crateva balanghas, Crateva vallanga, Feronia balanghas, Feronia limonia and Schinus limonia. The problem doesn't end there. There is a completely different plant that was also called Limonia acidissima. Sorting these names and keeping track of changes can be, as you can see, a daunting task.

 

Why do scientific names change? There are a number of reasons, but, very briefly, it's because they are obliged to conform to certain internationally agreed rules, such as a rule which says that the earliest validly published name will always be given priority over subsequent names. Older names with a claim - to validity have an awkward habit of turning up just when a name seems 'settled'.

 

Take a hypothetical tropical tree that might have been independently 'discovered' and named in the early 19th century by four European botanists exploring injava, Malaya, Ceylon and Assam. Each one of these botanists would have given this tree their own scientific name and - without jet planes and the Internet - it is unlikely that any of them would have learned about the names which the others were using. A century or so later, perhaps, a taxonomist visiting herbaria in Holland, France, Britain and India finds dried specimens of that same tree under four separate names. His task would be to find out which of the botanical names was the earliest to have been (validly) published, so that he could then treat the other three names as superseded synonyms.

 

There are other possible scenarios which can lead to a botanical name-change: with molecular analysis and DNA studies, botanists are discovering relationships between plants where none were thought to exist - and conversely, none where plants were thought to be closely related. So the systematic ordering of plants into genera and families has been, and will probably continue for a long time to be, in a state of upheaval. Every time a genus is split into two it nearly always necessitates the coining of are collapsed into one, it obliterates one of the extant generic names.

 

So for one reason or another, botanical names are inconstant and, while they may be meaningful (even as they are discarded) for taxonomists, they do not work quite so well for a lay public. Take the case of the feathery- leaved, thorny Acacias which many people have learned to identify generically even if they find it hard to tell one particular species from another. How upsetting is it to learn that the name Acacia has recently been 'taken away' by Australian wattles and that all Indian species of Acacia will in future have to be called Vachellia or Senegalia) (See page 365 'The War over the Name Acacia")

 

You will sometimes come across a third word added to a Latin binomial, signalling that a particular plant ought to be regarded as a 'subspecies' or 'variety'. Both these terms signify finer levels of distinction within a species, indicating that for some reason (geographical isolation being the most common) two or more populations of a species have come to exhibit differences in flower colour or some other characteristics of the species. Scientists need distinctions like 'subspecies' and 'variety' to capture a sense of a species in flux but the precise distinction between the two terms has proved to be quite difficult to nail down. Some people argue that there is or ought to be a qualitative difference between 'subspecies' and 'variety' but in practice it has been found that their usage has become largely a matter of cultural preference. US botanists tend to favour 'variety'; Europeans prefer 'subspecies'. At least In botany, subspecies and variety have become more or less interchangeable now.

 

The full scientific name of a plant goes beyond the binomial to include a citation of the author who is credited with validly publishing the name. At the back of this book (pages 364-82), I have listed the full scientific names, including authors, alphabetically by genera, along with hsts of discarded (superseded) names. Use this section if you need to look up a tree when you suspect that the only botanical name you know might be an older, discarded one.

 

Contents

 

PREFACE

INTRODUCTION

What Counts as a Tree?

6

Tree Names

7

Common names

7

Botanic names

7

Pronouncing Local Names

9

Parts of a Tree

10

How to Use This Book

12

Navigating the Keys

14

The Leaf Scheme

15

OVERVIEW

What's Central India?

16

The Lie of the land

18

The Ground Beneath Our Feet

19

Deccan Trap

19

Vindhyan rocks

20

The Oldest rocks

21

Gondwana rocks

22

Alluvium

23

Laterite

23

The Character of Central India's Jungles

24

forest Types

Surrei (Sal) forest

25

Mixed deciduous forest

26

Sagon (Teak) forest

27

Savanah woodland

28

Anjan-dominated mixed forest

29

Pure Dhok forest

29

Riverine forests and rocky gorges

30

Subtropical hill forest

31

horn forest

31

Seasons in the Jungle

32

Why are new leaves (mostly) red?

35

Flowers in the jungle

35

Forestry in Central India

37

The Colonial period

38

Independent India

40

Hope for the Future

44

The Best Places to go Tree-Spotting

45

THE KEYS

Using the Keys

46

Bark Key by Textures

48

Flower Key by Colour

64

Fruit Key by Forms

76

THE TREE CATALOGUE

Trees with Simple Leaves

Untoothed leaves

87

Toothed leaves

205

Lobed leaves

253

Trees with Compound Leaves

Digitate leaves

271

Pinnate leaves

291

Twice-pinnate leaves

337

BACK OF THE BOOK

Tree Names - Authors &: Synonyms

364

Acknowledgements

383

Index

384

 

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