For any wildlife to survive, vegetation is the prime necessity. Besides providing life-supporting oxygen to all its inhabitants, forest vegetation has multiple roles to play in respect of its wildlife. Most wildlife linkages are due to their need for food, water and shelter. Food is directly available to the herbivores, and indirectly to the carnivores. Vegetative food is available in the form of tender and mature leaves, tender twigs and bark, flowers, fruits, roots and tubers, and the whole plant.
Birds eat seeds, flower, nectar, fruits and even the insects
visiting the flowers. The movement of Langur Monkeys mostly depends on the
flowering and new flush of leaves on trees. Birds make nests of various
sizes and shapes, using either leaves, twigs or grasses.
Nests are sometimes a piece of art. Take the case of the Baya Weaver Bird that weaves one of the most intricate nests, or the nest made by the Tailor Bird, which stitches leaves together to form a sort of a cup. Smaller animals like the Monitor Lizard, the Mongoose or the Civets find shelter in hollow trees, while birds like the Owls and the Barbet make nests by making a hole in a tree.
Lions use vegetation extensively for rest, courtship, mating and giving birth. For these activities the Lions use the Karamda shrubs. Herbivores like Chital and Sambar rest under Banyan or Khakhro during their afternoon siesta. Lions often mark shrubs and trees on the periphery of their home range as 'scent posts'. Heavy ground cover is useful for animals going to a water hole.
Trees in full bloom bring large number of birds. Fruiting on Pipal and Umbro has been known to bring more than 40 kinds of birds. In case of wild ungulates, birth of fawns is timed with new flush of grass, immediately with the onset of rains. We may think the big predators as the superstars of the forest, but it is the humble plants that make all the diversity possible.
Plants are the real, but silent superstars of any ecosystem. Here's a glimpse into some of the varieties that give Gir its flavour.
Butea is named after botanist John Stuart, who was the Earl
of Bute; and Monosperma means one seed. The battlefield of Plassey is said
to have taken its name from the Palas tree. The wood resembles teak and
hence the English call it bastard Teak!
In semi arid areas, when the entire landscape becomes devoid of any colour in the summer, the flaming orange flowers create an impression of patches of fire, and hence the name 'Flame Of The Forest'.
'Ficus' is the Latin name of the fig tree, and Benghalensis
refers to Bengal. This evergreen tree has aerial roots, which descend from
branches to enter the ground, and thicken to become trunk like over a
period of time.
The figs provide food to a variety of animals, especially birds, who return the fagour by propagating the seeds far and wide. Banyan and other fig trees begin life as an epiphyte (a plant that grows on another without being parasitic on it) growing from seeds dropped by birds. They may strangle the host tree, but the two can co exist for a long time. The Banyan is sacred to the Hindus and is often planted near temples. Leaves are used as fodder for camels and elephants. The milky latex is believed to be a cure for rheumatism. Flowers: March To April Fruits: April To June And October To November.
The tree is a host for the Lac insect from which the
valuable lac is harvested. The tree is frost hardy and drought resistant
and is extensively planted for aforestation of saline lands. The bark is
used in tanning, the leaves are made into plates, the flowers yield a dye,
the seeds yield a clear oil and the root fibre is used for making ropes.
In ancient India, the flowers were used for auspicious markings (tilak)
and colour for the Holi festival was made from the dye extracted from the
Flowers: February To march.
Fruits: Pods Ripen In May To June.
Derived from Persian 'Azad Darakht' meaning a noble tree,
and Indica refers to its Indian origin. This incredible tree can be called
nature's pharmacy because every part yields countless medicinal substances
of immense value. Today, it is much sought after internationally for
The Neem is an excellent shade tree and owing to its large leaf area, it gives out more oxygen than most other trees. Deep rooted, the neem is specially suited to dry areas as it consumes very little water.
Flowers: March To July
Fruits: Ripens June To August
'Ficus' in Latin means the Fig, and religious means
pertaining to religion because the tree is sacred to the Hindus and the
Buddhists. This is the tree under which Buddha received enlightenment at
Bodh Gaya, hence it is also called "the Bodhi Tree". Each
species of ficus has its particular insect. Smaller the figs smaller the
insects. Figs of Peepal are much sought after by birds as well as Monkeys.
The Peepal is a tree with long life. A tree in Sri Lanka is reported to be
over 2,200 years old.
Flowers: March To April
Fruits: Ripen In April, Also In October To November.
'Albizia' is named after Albizzi, an Italian naturalist, and
Lebbeck after a place in Egypt where it was regularly planted as an avenue
tree. This is a fast growing deciduous tree that grows 15 to 20m tall. The
creamy yellow flowers are highly fragrant. This is also a very important
tree in arid regions as it yields fodder for camels and cattle. The tree
is drought resistant, fixes nitrogen in the soil, and provides fuel wood.
It is extensively used for aforestation of degraded lands.
Flowers: April To May.
Fruits: Ripen In September
One of the most beautiful trees of India, the Silk Cotton is a fast
growing tree and grows up to 40m. The large flowers are brilliant Crimson
and hold so much nectar that birds and insects coverage on it throughout
the day in large numbers. A bird watcher will rightly call this tree a
'One Tree Sanctuary'!
Flowers: January To March
Fruits: Ripens April To May.
'Tamarindus' is derived from the Persian Tamar I Hind, meaning India
Date, and Indica refers to its Indian origin. This majestic evergreen tree
has a dome shaped crown up to 30m and can reach a girth of around 5m. The
seeds pass through the digestive tracts of birds and animals and sprout
easily in all nooks and corners. Pulp from the pods is used to season
curries and chutneys.
Flowers: Small Pink And Creay Scented Flowers In May To June But Inconspicuous Amongst The Foliage.
Fruits: March To April, 10 To 11 Months After Flowering.
This is small to medium sized deciduous tree with a greyish bark that
one will find peeling off in thin round plates. Leaves are long and
flowers are yellowish green. The tree is leafless from November to May and
the leaves turn yellow before falling. New leaves arrive in May to June.
Fruits are eaten by the crows who swallow the pulp and help dispersal of
the seed. The leaves of the tree are used as fodder for cattle.
Fruits: Ripens May To July
'Tectona' is derived from "Tekka", the vernacular name for
Teak in Kerala, and 'Grandis' refers to its grandeur. The wood of the tree
is long lasting because it contains a resin, which preserves and protects
it from attacks by Fungi, Termites and other harmful insects. Havelis,
temples, palaces and ships made from teak have survived centuries. Good
quality teak is mainly found in the protected forests area of central,
western and southern India.
Flowers: Whitish, June To August.
Fruits: November To January
This is a medium sized evergreen (trees that remain green throughout the
year) tree with a dense shady crown. Flowers are small and greenish white,
fragrant and appear from the twigs below the leaves. The famous purplish
black fruit with a juicy pulp contains a single seed. Fruits are consumed
by Flying Foxes and a variety of birds and thus the seeds are dispersed to
far away places.
Flowers: March To May
Fruits: Ripens June To August
Sterculia comes from "Sterculius", a God of Roman mythology,
derived from Stercus, meaning Dung. This is so because the Romans are
believed to have deified the very objects they disliked! The bark of this
tree exudes a white gum called 'Karaya' which is used in cosmetic and in
thickening ice cream, and hence its common name.
Fruits: April To May.
This is a large deciduous (any tree that loses its leaves at a certain
time each year and later grows nes leaves) tree with dark grey furrowed
bark peeling off in rectangular flakes. Its wood is considered so good
that it is used for decorative paneling, high-class furniture and
cabinetwork. The wood is dark brown streaked with black and is also good
for use in buildings.
Flowers: July To August
A small to medium sized deciduous tree with 1 to 3 cm on spines that
makes identification easy. The tree always look strikingly beautiful on
account of its bright green foliage and yellow fruits. The wood is also
strongly aromatic. The flowers of the tree attract a lot of Honey Bees and
the fruits are eaten by Deer, Boars and Monkeys that eat the pulp and help
in dispersal of the seeds.
Flowers: March To July
Fruits: Ripens January To June
This is a moderate sized deciduous tree up to 9 to 15m in height and has
a spreading crown. The flowers of the tree are white and the fruit
contains three seeds. Porcupines are known to damage the bark as they gnaw
at it and boars dig out seedlings. The tree gets its common name from a
yellowish green gum, which has a pleasant smell when burnt.
Flowers: February To April
Fruits: Ripens May To June
This is a small to medium sized tree that grows to a height of nearly
7m. The trunk and branches are irregularly shaped and has a smooth and
scaly bark. The leaves secrete a milky substance and hence it is locally
known as 'Dudhalo' in Gujarat. Flowers are white and fragrant. A Pari of
drooping, green, cylindrical pod like fruit grows to 0.25 to 0.50m long.
Flowers: March to May