Plants of Kumaon
Research by Dr. Dinesh Joshi
The Himalaya is considered as one of the most important botanical regions of the world. Kumaun region, comprising of the districts of Almora, Bageshwar, Champawat, Nainital, Pithoragarh and Udham Singh Nagar lies approximately between 28 43’ to 30 47’N: 78 44’ to 81 4’E. Wide diversities in soils, altitudes and climate provide such an environment which has generated different types of vegetational ecosystems.(Source. : Himalaya Environment Resource and Development(1990)
The useful plants reported here are in alphabetical order with special reference to the following uses:
1. House and house holds (HH)
2. Food plants (FOOD)
3. Medicinal plants (M)
4. Fodder plants (Fod)
5. Recreational (R)
6. Magico-religious belief (MRB).
Abelmochus crinatus Wall. (KAPSUA). Malvaceae – FOOD: Mucilage from stem fibres is used as a thickening agent in the preparation of a delicious sweet dish from rice floor; locally called `Pua’.
Abies webbiana Lindl. Var. pindrow (Royle) Hook. F. pinaceae – HH: Building material and fuel.
Abrus precatorius Linn. (RATTI). Papilionaceae:-R:Seeds are inserted within eyes to show tricks, HH: Seeds are used as a measure of weight for precious metals and stones.
Acacia Arabica Willd. (KHAIR). Mimosaceae – HH: Agricultural implements particularly plough is made from wood, MRB: `Shuru’ and Katar’ wooden articles used in `Yagya’, `Yagyopavit’ and other religious ceremonies are made from the wood of
Adhatoda vasica Nees (BAISING). Acanthaceae – R: Basal portion of fruit is split and worn as an ear-ring.
Aegle marmelos Corr. (BEL). Rutaceae – FOOD: The pulp of fruit is used as a refreshing drink (sharbat), MRB: Leaves particularly trifoliate are offered to Lord Shiva.
Aesclus indica Colebr (PANGAR). Hippocastanaceae – FOOD: The embryo is eaten by the local people, Fod: Leaves used as green fodder, Bonsai culture.
Agave Americana Linn. (RAMBANS). Agavaceae – HH: fencing, leaf extract used for washing clothes, fish poisoning, leaf fibre for cordage, nets, bags, etc. Scape is used for fuel
Ajuga bractiosa Wall. Ex Benth. Var. bracteosa Wall (RATPATIA) – M: The juice of the leaves is used against `Khasra’ and other diseases of children.
Allium Linn cepa. (PYAZ). Amaryllidaceae – FOOD:Bulbs used as condiments eaten raw as salad and cooked as vegetable, R: Village children make musical instruments from the leaves, MRB: Not used during fast or other pious days. Some people do not take it at all comsidering it impious.
Allium sativum Linn. (LAHSUN). Amaryllidaceae – FOOD: Used as condiments, M: Used in blood –pressure and cholesterol control, applied to boils externally and heated with oil for massage in rheumatism, MRB: Considered impious and not used during fast and other religious days.
Allium stracheyi Baker (JAMBU, SEKUA). Amaryllidaceae – FOOD: Dried leaves are used as a highly fragrant condiment
Aloe barbadense Mill. (GHEEKWANR, PATKWANR). Liliaceae – M: Leaf mucilage is used in eye troublesand headache.
Amaranthus paniculatus Linn. (CHUWA). Amaranthaceae – FOOD : Grains used for various preparations, such as, puddings, etc. leaves serve the purpose of green vegetable, MRB: Seeds considered pious and used in various preparations.
Anaphalis busua Buch.-Ham. Ex D. Don (BAKAUL). Asteraceae – HH: Dried leaves are used for lighting fire.
Angelica glauca Edgew. (GANDRAYAN). Apeaceae – M: Used in stomachache and inflammation.
Apluda mutica Linn. Poaceae – Fod.: Dry plants including grains used as fodder.
Artemisia edgeworthi Balak (PATI). Asteraceae – Fod: Used as fodder in high altitudes.
Artermisia parviflora Buch.-Ham. Ex Roxb. (TITI PATI). Asteraceae – HH: Fumes are insectrepellents, used in incense, thatching cow-sheds during winters, MRB: Plants are worshipped on Sunday.
Artocarpus lakoocha Roxb. (DHAUN). Moraceae – FOOD: Ripe fruits are eaten and young unripe fruits are cooked into a curry.
Axyris amaranthoides Linn. (BITHUJHAR). Chenopodiaceae – M: Used for the cure of boils and wounds.
Bauhinia retusa Buch. Ham. Ex Roxb. (KWERAL). Caesalpinaceae – FOOD: Flower buds are used in making vegetable and raita, Fod: Green twigs used as fodder.
Bauhinia variegata Linn. (MALU). Caesalpinaceae – HH: Leaves used for making `pattal’( used as substitute for plates during cultural gatherings ) and wrapping `singori’ (a local sweet). Fibre extracted from weak stem used for making ropes, Fod: Leaves and young twigs used as fodder.
Berberis asiatica Roxb. Ex DC (KILMORA). Berberidaceae – FOOD: Fruits are edible.
Bergenia ligulata Wall. (SILFORA). Saxifragaceae – FOOD: Leaves are blended with tea. Evergreen house plant.
Betula utilis D. Don (BHOJ PATRA). Betulaceae – MRB:Wood isused in `yagya’ (Hawan). In ancient period the bark was used for writings.excellent Bonsai plant.
Boehmeria rugulosa Wedd. (GETHI). Urticaceae – HH: Wooden utensils and also as fuel wood, Fod: Green twigs used as fodder.
Bombax ceiba Linn. (SEMAL). Bombacaceae – FOOD: Succulent calyx eaten by native children, M: Bark is made into flour and with Glycine max (Bhatt) given to cattle for skin diseases (Damari)
Bothriochloa pertusa (Linn.) A. Camus. Poaceae – Fod: Dry plants used as fodder.
Brachiaria ramose (Linn.) Stapf. Poaceae – Fod: Plants used as hay and fodder.
Brassica campestris Linn. (SARSON). Brassicaceae – FOOD: Leaves are used as green vegetable. Mustard oil is extracted from seeds and used as cooking medium, M: Oil is used in pains and inflammation, with common salt, MRB: Seeds are used on birthday celebrations and other `puja’ ceremonies during `kalas thapan’.
Brassica juncea (Linn.) Czern. (RAI). Brassicaceae – FOOD: Seeds are used as condiment in the preparation of `raita’ from raphanus and cucumber – a very delicious preparation of Kumaun Hills. M: Seeds made into paste and applied to pills and boils,MRB: Seeds with red chillies are put on burning coals after waving around the body are said to ward off evil eyes and spirits on children and cattle. The burning material is then put at a cross-road.
Butea monosperma (Lamk.) Taub. (DHAK). Papilionaceae – MRB: Butea stick is used in `yagyopavita’, the person is supposed as if going to Kashi (Varanasi) to learn the holy scriptures.
Callicarpa macrophilla Vahl. (DAIA). Verbinaceae – FOOD: White, spongy fruits are eaten when ripe.
Calaptropis procera R. Br. (AAK). Asclepiadaceae – M: Latex is used in urine trouble.
Cannabis sativa Linn. (BHANG). Cannabaceae – HH: Bast fibres are used un making cords and sacks (Kuthala). Charas, hashish and ganja are extracted from inflorescence, FOOD: Seeds eaten raw and a paste from them is used as a thickening agent in vegetable, R:Village children play with light, hollow stems.
Carica papaya Linn. (PAPITA). Caricaceae – FOOD: Delicious fruits eaten M: Fruits said to be good for weak stomach.
Carissa opaca Stapf. (KARAUNDA). Apocynaceae – FOOD: Ripe fruits (berries) with a sweet-sour taste are eaten and also used for making pickles, Fod: Twigs browsed by sheep and goats.
Carum carvi Linn. (THOYA). Apiaceae – FOOD: Seeds used as a condiment, M: Used in gastric dysfunctions.
Cedrus deodara (Roxb.) Loud. (DEODAR, DYAR). Pinaceae – HH: High grade timber resistant to white ants used in building construction and in making furniture. Further, its fumes are used as a snake repellent. Bonsai culture.
Celtis australis Linn., C. eviocarpa Dacaisne (KHARIK). Ulmaceae – Fod: Green twigs as fodder, MRB: Not grown near houses as it is said to become a ghost at night.
Centella asiatica (Linn.) Urban (BRAHMI). Apiaceae – M: Leaves used as a brain tonic.
Chaerophyllum villosum Wall. Ex DC. (ZINZARI). Apiaceae – FOOD: Bulbous root is eaten and sold in the market after drying.