Located at tropical latitudes, the beautiful land of India is characterized by rainfall regimes and diverse temperature and climate. India’s climate helps in the growth of forests in the country. However, in the past thousand years, various types of human activities have altered the climatic formations in the country to ala large extent. The natural vegetation in India primarily comprise of forests. Vegetation growing in correspondence with different environmental conditions is the natural vegetation of a particular place. Several major factors such as soil, topography, temperature and rainfall have influenced thenatural vegetation of India to a large extent. Depending on the atmosphere, weather, position and other factors, there can be several classification of India’s natural vegetation. The many features that characterize the natural vegetation of India are the tropical deciduous forests, the tropical rain forests, the alpine and tundra vegetation, rain forests of Southern India, Himalayan vegetation, the desert region, the temperature forests and grasslands and many more.
A major role is played by the tropical rain forests, in the natural vegetation in India. These forests include the tropical semi-evergreen forests and the tropical evergreen forests. A place experiencing large amount of sunshine and rainfall have this type of forests. The trees found in these forests do not have any particular season to cast off their leaves since the area stays wet and warm all through the year. The growth of the trees happens to be very briskly where the sublime height attained by the trees is 60m or more. The forests are also known as archetypal rain-forests. These type of regions are only concentrated to the plains of West Bengal and Orissa, the Western Ghats and North-eastern India. The varied species available in the region are huge and can be used commercially. Some of the functional trees found in the region consist of Mahogany, Rosewood and Ebony.
Another kind of natural vegetation found in India, is the Alpine Vegetation. The Eastern slopes in the Western Ghats are home to the moist deciduous forests. These type of forests can also be located in northeast of India that is areas od Chhotanagpur Plateau, south Bihar, east Madhya Pradesh, and west Orissa They are also found in the north-eastern part of the peninsula i.e. in the region of Chhotanagpur plateau, covering east Madhya Pradesh, south Bihar, the Shiwaliks in North India and west Orissa. The major trees in the region are Sal, Teak and Sandalwood. While Teak serves as an essential species in the region, Sal on the other happens to be an important tree found in the dry deciduous forests. Over the time, it has been noticed that the moist deciduous forests in India are being slowly replaced by the dry deciduous forests. The tress in this region unlike those found in the tropical rain forests, have a particular time for casting off leaves.
Yet another kind of natural vegetation offered to India is by the Thorn Forests and Shrubs. Found in dry places with an average annual rainfall below 70 cm, these forest sprawls over the north western region of India, from Saurashtra in the south of the country to Punjab in the northern side. In the eastern part, the forests extend to the state of Madhya Pradesh, the south western part of Uttar Pradesh and the Bundelkhand plateau. Long roots, broadness and radial pattern are the most common features of the dispersed trees found in this region. The forests gradually die away to thorny bushes and scrubs, thereby consisting of the most classic vegetation of the deserts. Among the valuable species of plants found in this region, are kikar, babul, and coarse grasses.
India’s natural vegetation also consists of the tropical deciduous forests. The forests are also known as deciduous (be it is dry or moist) since the tress of the forests cast off the leaves for 6 to 8 weeks in the month of summer. With immense beauty and grandeur, these forests are also known as the monsoon forests. A natural cover is provided by this natural vegetation to the entire country, specially those areas that receive about having 200 and 75 cm of rainfall annually. The forests stretch to Kerala, valleys of the Himalayas, eastern slopes of the Western Ghats, north eastern region of the peninsular plateau. The tropical deciduous forests are –effective, substantial, and less resistant towards fire. The forests can further be divided into dry and the moist deciduous forests.
The tidal forests in India offer a different variety of vegetation to the country. Found alongside the rivers and coasts, the forests are covered with mangrove trees all around that can sustain in salt water as well as fresh water. One of the well-known mangrove tree found in the Tidal Forests is the Sundari Tree after which the forest area of the Ganga brahmaputra delta region was named as the “Sunderbans”.
A kind of vegetation is also found at the grasslands and temperate forests of India. Numerous types of plants can be traced at the Himalayas, varying with rising altitudes. Evergreen trees such as Chestnut, Oak, Maple etc are usually broad leaved and grow in altitudes between 1000m to 2000m. While the Coniferous trees such as Silver Fir, Deodar, Pine, Spruce etc, on the other hand, grow in altitudes between 1500m to 3000m. These trees are generally found in the southern slopes of the Himalayan Region. The temperate grasslands are generally found in higher altitudes.
Another important natural vegetation in India is the alpine and tundra vegetation. The Alpine Vegetation grows at an altitude of over 3600 m. It has been noticed that with an increment in the altitude, the plants in the region show a stunted growth. Trees such as pine, silver fir, birch, juniper etc fall in this category of vegetation. An extensive use of the Alpine vegetation is made by the tribal people of Bakarwal and Gujjar. Vegetations such as lichen and mosses can also be found at high altitudes.
A major type of natural vegetation in India happens to be the Himalayan vegetation. The deep tropical forests located in the eastern part of India have differs sharply from coniferous and pine woodlands found in the western Himalayas. The natural cover changes with the change in the altitude. The evergreen forests usually having high alpine vegetation close to the snowline generally have temperate forests near the lower elevations. A plant called chir pine (Pinus roxburghii) exists in the northwest Himalayas, except Kashmir. Other plants such as oak, maple, chilgoza (pine nut), ash (Fraxinus xanthoxyloides), grow largely in the Inner Himalayas. Deciduous trees, fern, shrubs and grass mainly cover the wet foothills of the Himalayas while the Brahmaputra Valley consists of tea plantations and rice fields.
The rain forests in South India contribute greatly to the natural vegetation in India. The most abundant rain forests are situated on the southwestern coast of Kerala. Here large number of coconut trees can be found canopying the lagoons, thereby leading to the development of a continuous stretch of rain forests in India. Some of the other parts in India where rain forests can be found are Arunachal Pradesh and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Further Teak, sandal and sisoo (Dalbergia sissoo) forests grow in the wet plateau of Karnataka plateau. The dry Telengana plateau located in the state of Andhra Pradesh comprises wild Indian date palm and thorny scrub.
When we are talking about the Natural vegetation in India, how can we forget the desert region in the country! The Thar Desert is a beautiful example of the vegetation in India. The trees in the Thar Desert are generally found to be stout, short and stunted by the sun. The popular trees in the region are reunjha (Acacia leucophloea), cacti, khejra (Prosopis spicigera), ak (Calotropis gigantea), kanju (Holoptelia integrifolia) etc.
All these forests and regions contribute immensely thereby making the Natural Vegetation of India: Diverse and a Unique One!