Ethnobotanical Leaflets 13: 651-64, 2009.
Plant diversity and Ethnobotanical notes on tree species of Syabru Village, Langtang National Park, Nepal
Ananda Raj Joshi and Kunjani Joshi*
Former Director General, SACEP, Colombo, Sri Lanka
*Department of Botany, Patan Campus, Tribhuvan University, Nepal
Email: ; m
Issued May 01, 2009
In the course of the survey of the useful plants of Nepal, 25 tree species belonging to 20 genera representing 17 families have been documented with their indigenous uses from the Syabru village and adjoining areas of the Langtang National Park, Nepal. At present, these useful plants and their habitats are under serious threat due to anthropogenic pressure. In this paper, an attempt has been made to enumerate these plants with their present status and local traditional knowledge as well as practices and to recommend some strategies for integrated management of the useful species and their habitats.
Keywords: Plant biodiversity, ethnobotanical uses, indigenous knowledge, habitats.
In the recent years, more attention is given to sustainable use and integrated management of the economically important species due to an increasing recognition of their contribution to fulfill basic needs of the people, household economies, food security and conservation of natural resources. In Nepal, the rural communities relay heavily on plant biodiversity for their primary healthcare and daily requirement of food and rawmaterials. However, at present, most of ecosystems with useful species are under threat due to habitat distruction, unsustainable harvesting and over-exploitation. It is now realized that priority should be given to the documentation and conservation of the existing species and habitats before some of these are eliminated from the area, or before the inhabitants shift over to modern life style. In this context, some sporadic works have already done to collect ethnobotanical data and traditional knowledge systems (Joshi and Edington, 1990; Joshi, 1991; Bhattarai, 1992; Joshi and Joshi, 2000; 2005; Manandhar, 2002; Joshi et al., 2003 Siwakoti, et al., 2005). But the vast store of ethno-botanical wealth of the present study areas has not been comprehensively documented. In this background, present study was devised to document the trees with their indigenous uses and practices.
Study Areas and Methods
After reconnaissance of some villages of the Central Development Region, Syabru village of Langtang National Park was selected for the ethnobotanical study. This village has enjoyed some measures of environmental protection and lie on trekking routes. The major physical and socio- economic characteristic features are given in Table 1.
Table 1. Physical and Socio-economic characteristic features.
Several field trips in and around the study areas were undertaken with a view to collect plant species of ethnobotanical value and document the indigenous practices. The information was gathered using various techniques such as open and structured interview, and discussion with local informants, such traditional healers / “jhankri”, and experienced village elders including midwives and by direct observations on the way different plant materials were being collected and used (Joshi and Edington, 1990). Voucher specimens are deposited in the SchEMS, Pokhara University, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Results and Dicussion
The study areas are endowed with rich and varied biodiversity with various ecosystems i.e. forest, scrub, grassland, waterbodies etc. Diverse geomorphology, climatic variations and vegetation have made the forests and adjoining areas flourish with diverse species. The forest types of Syabru and the adjoining areas is charecterized by pine forest, alder forest and pine- broad leaved forest. Pine (Pinus wallichiina) is an important dominant tree in the pine forests and pine–broad leaved forests with other associated species i.e. Alnus nepalensis, Lyonia ovalifolia, Quercus spp., Rhododendron arboreum, Pyrus pashia, Princepia utilis, Berbaris asiatica, Mahonia nepalensis, Artemisia indica. In Alder forest Alnus nepalensis, Quercus lanata, Lyonia ovalifolia, Rhododendron arboreum, Princepia utilis are dominant trees with some shrubs i.e. Mahonia nepalensis, Dodecadenia grandiflora, Berberis chitria, Buddleja asiatica, Viburnum cylindricum, Gauitheria fragrantissima and some herbs, such as Achyranthes bidentata, Allium wallichii, Artemisia indica, Cannabis sativa (Table 2). Species composition of trees in the forest types and production of wood in the forest areas are presented in Table 2 and 3 respectively.
Table 2. Dominent species composition of trees in Syabru.
Table 3. Production of wood in the forest areas of Syabru.
Tree (.10cm diam)
Shrubs (<10cm diam.)
The wood productivity estimates obtained at Syabru (11.06 m/ha/annum) fall within the range 10-30m quoted by Joshi (1988) for forests in the hills of Nepal (Table 3). The fact that the village estimates are at the lower end of this range is probably related to substantial reduction in forest cover caused by over-exploitation.
During the field survey, ethnobotanical information of 25 species of medicinal plants belonging to 17 families have been collected from various habitats of the study areas. Table 4 lists the plants recorded as being used in Syabru village and adjoining areas. The species are arranged alphabetically with family, local names, habitat and uses.
Table 4. Ethnobotanical uses of the trees of Syabru.
The results of the present study revealed that trees and their parts are widely used for various purposes as fuelwood, timber, medicines, rawmaterials etc.
In the study village, wood cut from the forest is the principal source of domestic energy for cooking and heating. The preferred species for fuel wood by local people are given in Table 5.
Fuelwood Consumption Patterns in the study area are as follows:
(a) fuelwood used by village residents
(b) fuelwood used by tourist trekkers or on their behalf (e.g. where teahouse provide food and regreshments)
(c) fuelwood cut on the village land by outsiders who subsequently export it for consumption elsewhere.
Estimate for the annual consumption of fuelwood from the study village is set out in Table 6. It will be seen that the trekkers use greater fuelwood (22 metric tons/annum) due to Syabru is a overnight stoping place for treeker between national park and Dhuche (Joshi, 1988). The other feature to notice is that wood was also being harvested on village land by people who had come in from surrounding villages and were subsequently carrying loads of wood from Syabru (18 metric tons/annum) out of the area.
Table 6. Wood production and consumption for Syabru village (value
expressed as mt/ per year).
The most striking feature of the relationship between wood production and consumption is the excess of consumption over production in the small wood category the both villages. Small wood includes the branches of trees and shrubs, the truks of small wood probably has a varietyb of causes. It can be easily cut using the traditional nepali tools i.e. khurpi or Knief, it can be conveniently tied into bundles, and subsequently, it is easily fed into the apertures of clay stoves or between the legs of tripod type stoves. If one is to look for environmental consequences of this over-use of small wood, one of these appear to be the suppression of tree regeneration. In counts of regenerating trees in the 25 m survey plots, it was found that few seedlings survived to a height greater than 100 cm. presumably the main reason was that at this hight the samplings became usable as fuelwood and were cut and removed (Joshi, 1988).
Timber for house construction, furnitures and household utensils
Nepalese village houses have a supporting framework of wooden uprights with additional pillars, to support a balcony if this is included in the design. At Syabru the roof also usually consists of flat wooden slabs or shingles. When asked about the amount of wood used for building purposes with the local people, no reliable information were available from the study area. However, Mauch (1976) and Joshi (1988) have made a calculation of building-timber use per person for hill village in Nepal and arrive at a figure of 0.3m3/person/person / annum.
Though the hardwoods are generally favoured for constructional purposes of their greater durability and relative freedom from fungal and insect attack, pine is more widely used at the Syabru village because of the greater availability. Other preferred species for house frames are Alnus nepalensis, Castanopsis indica, Castanopsis tribuloides, Melia azedarach, Myrsine capitellata, Quarcus glauca and Q. semicarpifolia. Wood of Pinus wallichiana and Schima wallichii are usually chosen for window shutters, doors and ladders. Wood is also used in the manufacture of household furnitures including storage boxes, chairs, stools, table and beds. Species used for these purpose include Abies spectabilis, Bombax cebia, Castanopsis indica, C. tribuloides, Myrsine capitellata, Myrsine semiserrata, Pinus wallichiana, Quercus glauca, Q. lanata, and Q. semicarpifolia. For fencing, favoured species included Alnus nepalensis, Lyonia ovalifolia and Rhododendron arboreum. Rhododendron arboretum finds a particular use in the manufacture of such household items as wooden paddles, spoons and bowls.
The present study revealed that gastro intestinal disorders and stomach ache, dematological illness and cuts, wounds and headache are the major diseases and illness in the study area. The local people use the plants and their parts for the treatment of these alignments following the traditional practices. During the treatment of the diseases, various forms of preparation are used . Among the documented species, 7 species were used to treat gastrointestinal disorders, 2 for fever, cough, headache, 7 for dermatological illness, 1 for genito-urinary complaints, 3 for respiratory aliments, 2 for dental problems, and 2 for others (Table 2).
Wild foods are collected by local people from a wide variety of habitats i.e. forest, scrub, edges of cultivated areas and waste lands. The major food plants are Myrica esculenta, Castanopsis spp., Pyrus pashia, Prunus nepaulensis, Lindra pulcherrima. The local communities have also excellent knowledge about the poisnous plants of the study area
18 tree species are recorded as being used as fodder plants in these villages. Among them, local people prefer Castanopsis indica, Castanopsis tribuloides, Myrsine capittata, Myrsine semiserata, Quercus glaunca, Quercus lananta, Q. semiserrata and Salix babylonica.. The people of the villages have comprehensive knowledge about fodder plants, as they are in constant association and dependence on these resources for integrated agriculture development.
Various plant and parts of the plants are used as rawmaterials for the manufacture or preparation of commodities. The major products and uses as follows:
At Syabru the main dye used is a dark brown dye derived from the bark of Schima wallichii. The dye are used for coloring wool and for painting designs (usually with a stick) on baskets, mats, and cloth.
Handals of agricultural tools
Species especially favoured for the handles of tools and agricultural implements include Melia azedarach and Pyrus pashia.,
Manufacture of soap and wax
Pinus wallichiana is an important source of resin and turpentine in the study area. Resin is used in the manufacture of soap, grease, and waxes and is exported for these purpose to Trisuli and Kathmandu.
Insectisides and Fish poison
The village people use a variety of plant materials to deter flies in the houses and to protect stored grain from insect damage. Leaves of Lyonia ovalifolia or dried fruits, leaves, bark of Melia azaderach are placed in the mouth of grain bags and in the tops of open-air storage bins (bhakari), to discourage the entry of grain-feeding beetles and moths.
Plant extracts are widely used in the studied village for capturing fish. Crushed leaves of Lyonia ovalifolia or immature leaves of Rhododendron arboreum are introduced into streams and river with the aim of stupefying fish. The affected fish float to the surface and are removed from the water usually with a piece of cloth stretched across a branched stick. Similarly fruits of Melia azaderach or bark and fruits of Schima wallichii are also used as fish poison.
Strategies for Sustainable Management
Despite the formulation and adoption of various policies, plans, strategies and implementation of progrommes for the conservation of the species and their habitats, there is a growing consensus among the conservationists that the conservation of bio-resources, especially of plant biodiversity is entering into a stage of crisis, since there has been hardly any attempt to conserve these resources in an integrated manner (Joshi and Joshi, 1998). Therefore, the following strategies should be implemented in order to conserve and sustainable use of trees in particular and other plant diversity in general in an environmentally sound way.
1. Inventory, Documentation of the species and research
Though the inventory of plant biodiversity has initiated in different biogeographical areas, many parts of the country are still remained unexplored. Hence, it is strongly recommended that major thrust should be given to an intensive inventory and documentation of the useful trees as well as other species and their products. The research related to chemical screening should also be initiated to analyse chemical contents and their implications on health, food and plant products.
2. Documentation of ethnobotanical uses, Traditional knowledge and practices
Regarding the ethnobotanical information, there is still a paucity of quantitative data about the traditional uses, effectiveness, sideeffects and traditional techniques. The rural people have excellent ethnobotanical knowledge which they have developed due to constant association with the forest ecosystems. These existing valuable information are needed to be documented before lost or disappeared. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that emphasis should be given to the action activities for the documentation of indigenous uses, traditional knowledge and practices following in quatitative methods.
3. Conservation of useful species and their habitats
At present urbanization trend is rapidly spreading even in the forest and waste land. Deforestation and habitat destruction due to land use change would pose a serious threat to the useful species and habitats. Hence, efforts should be directed to formulate and implement appropriate conservation strategies and programs for habitat management and sustainable uses of the plants and their products taking consideration of the needs of the people.
The authors are thankful to the inhabitants of the study areas for their kind cooperation and help during the field survey. Thanks are due to Dr. John F. Edington, University of Wales, U.K. for his guidance and suggestion, and Dr. S. K. Jain, Founder and Ex-Director, Institute of Ethnobiology, Lucknow, India, Profs. P.K. Jha, R. P. chaudhary and K. K. Shrestha, Central Department of Botany, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal for constant encouragement.
Bhattarai, N. K. 1992. Medical ethnobotany in the Karnali Zone, Nepal. Economic Botany 46 : 257-261.
Joshi A.R. 1988. A Study of the Evironmental Relationship of Certain Village Communities in the Central Development Region of Nepal, Ph.D. Thesis. University of Wales. U.K.
Joshi, A.R. and Edington, J.M., 1990. The uses of medicinal plants by two village communities in the Central Development Region of Nepal. Economic Botany 44 : 71-83.
Joshi A.R. and Joshi, Kunjani 2000. Indiginous knowledge and uses of medicinal plants by local communities of the Kali Gandaki Watershed Area, Nepal. J. Ethnopharmacology 73: 175-183.
Joshi, A.R. and Joshi, Kunjani 2003a. Fodder Plants of hilly areas of Bagmati and Langtang Watershed of Nepal:ethnobotany and future conservation strategy. Ethnobotany 15 : 107-114.
Joshi, A. R. and Joshi, Kunjani 2005. Non-Timber forest Products of Bagmati and Langtang watershed, Nepal : raw materials of plant orign and their indigenous uses. Journal of Non-Timber Forest Products 12(2) : 76-86.
Joshi, A.R. and Joshi, Kunjani 2005. Ethnobotany and Conservation of Plant Diversity in Nepal, Rubrick, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Joshi, A.R., Shrestha, S. L. and Joshi, Kunjani 2003. Environmental Management and Sustainable Development at the Crossroad, AnKuS Publication, Kathmandu, Nepal
Joshi, Kunjani 1991. The uses of wild plants by local communities in the mountainous
region of Nepal. Mountain Environment and Development 1 : 43-52.
Joshi, Kunjani & Joshi, A. R. 1998. Stretegy for conserving biodiversity in Nepal, Tigerpaper, 25 (3): 25-32.
Manandhar, N.P. 2002. Plants and People of Nepal. Timber Press, Oregon.
Mauch, S.P.1976. The energy situation in the hills : imperative for development strategies. In Mountain Environment and Development, Swiss Assocuation for Technical Assistance Nepal (SATA), Kathmandu. pp. 123-147.
Siwakoti, M., Shivakoti, K.P., Karki, B. and Siwakoti, S. 2005. Ethnobotanical uses of plants among Rajbansi and Dhimal ethnic communities of Eastern Nepal. J. Nat. Hist. Mus. 22 : 41-56.