Native plants are plants that have their origins in a specific region or country. They encompass various types of plants that necessitate highly specific conditions for optimal survival. Certain plants not only survive but also flourish in temperatures that would prove fatal to other species. Consequently, native plants are exclusively found in their rightful place, thriving within their natural habitat and under prevailing environmental conditions.
India is renowned for its unique flora, which sets it apart from other regions. With its diverse geography and climate, India is home to an astonishing array of plants that cannot be found elsewhere in the world.
From the majestic Himalayan mountains in the north to the lush Western Ghats in the south, India encompasses a wide range of ecosystems that support a rich tapestry of plant species. These ecosystems include dense forests, expansive grasslands, wetlands, coastal areas, and arid regions.
India’s unique flora boasts an impressive number of plant species, with estimates exceeding 35,000. This vast botanical treasure trove encompasses a wide spectrum of plants, including towering trees, colorful flowers, aromatic herbs, medicinal plants, and exotic orchids.
The country’s native flora showcases an extraordinary level of biodiversity. It is characterized by rare and endangered species that have adapted to specific habitats and climatic conditions. These plants play a crucial role in maintaining ecological balance, providing habitats for wildlife, and contributing to the overall beauty of India’s landscapes.
Many of these wild plants have become endangered due to deforestation and climate change and have become vulnerable species. If you want to create a garden that mimics nature, consider planting at least ten native species. Ideally, the rest of the plants in your yard should also be natives.
Here is a list of 25 plants and trees native to India along with their uses!
1. Bael (Aegle marmelos)
Aegle marmelos, or Bael tree, is a sacred plant in India with medicinal significance. Its fruit is rich in nutrients, aids digestion, and has antimicrobial properties. The leaves, roots, and bark also offer medicinal benefits. It is revered in Hindu mythology, particularly during Shivratri.
2. Drumstick Tree (Moringa oleifera)
The drumstick tree, also known as moringa or horseradish tree, is a drought-resistant tree native to India. It has fragrant yellowish-white flowers and long, dangling fruit with dark brown seeds. The tree is versatile, with its seeds and leaves harvested for various culinary and cosmetic purposes.
3. Mango Tree (Mangifera indica)
Mango trees, native to India and Southeast Asia, are renowned for their delicious fruits. They have cultural significance worldwide, with over 500 varieties in India alone. The trees can reach 100 feet tall, produce vibrant red flowers, and are cherished as the national tree of Bangladesh and the national fruit of India.
4. Palash (Butea monosperma)
The Palash tree, or Butea monosperma, is a vibrant and culturally significant tree native to India. Its fiery blossoms symbolize spring’s arrival and are associated with festivals. The tree’s ecological importance includes being a host plant for butterflies and its medicinal properties in Ayurvedic medicine.
5. Kokam (Garcinia indica)
The kokum tree, native to India’s Western Ghats, bears small, round, plum-like fruit with red or purple skin. Its pulpy, sour flesh is used in cooking and medicine. Kokum is culturally important and widely used in coastal Indian cuisine as a tangy ingredient in dishes like sol kadhi and kokum curry.
6. Jamun (Syzygium cumini)
The Jamun tree, native to India, holds cultural importance and medicinal value. Its purple-black fruits are cherished for their taste and cooling effect, while the bark, leaves, and seeds are used in Ayurvedic medicine. It symbolizes Lord Krishna and adds beauty to the landscape.
7. Behada (Terminalia bellerica)
The Behada tree, scientifically known as Terminalia bellerica, is a large deciduous tree native to India. It reaches heights of up to 30 meters and has yellowish-green fruit used in Ayurvedic medicine. Behada trees are valued for their medicinal properties, ecosystem contribution, and timber usage in India.
8. Neem (Azadirachta indica)
The Neem tree, native to India, is culturally significant and used in traditional medicine. It thrives in diverse climates, with distinctive leaves, fragrant flowers, and oval fruits. Its wood is durable, neem oil is versatile, and it acts as a natural insect repellent, benefiting Indian culture and well-being.
9. Arjun (Terminalia arjuna)
The Arjuna tree, native to India, is a large deciduous species with broad leaves and a smooth, grayish-white bark. It grows up to 25 meters tall and holds cultural importance. In Ayurvedic medicine, its bark is used for heart ailments. The tree symbolizes strength, resilience, and beauty in India.
10. Lasoora (Cordia mixa)
The Lasoora tree, scientifically known as Cordia mixa, is daily used in India for its edible fruits, which are used in traditional cuisine for making pickles, jams, and chutneys. It also has medicinal properties, with various parts like the bark, leaves, and fruits used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine.
11. Bhojpatra (Betula utilis)
The Bhojpatra tree, native to the Himalayan region, is well-adapted to high altitudes. It grows up to 20 meters and has distinctive white bark. Valued for its versatile uses, it’s used to make writing material and has medicinal properties. Conservation efforts aim to preserve its cultural and ecological significance.
12. Chironji (Buchanania cochinchinensis)
The Chironji tree (Buchanania cochinchinensis) is a native tree species in India. It grows up to 15-20m tall, with a dense crown and dark green leaves. Its small, almond-like fruits contain a single Chironji nut. The nuts are prized for their sweet flavor and are used in Indian cuisine, Ayurvedic medicine.
13. Amla (Emblica officinalis)
The Amla tree, native to India, is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree found in tropical regions. Its fruits resemble gooseberries and are consumed fresh, as juice, pickles, or preserves. Amla is rich in vitamin C, boosting immunity and promoting hair and skin health. It is also used in Ayurvedic medicine and cosmetics.
14. Nagkesara (Mesua ferrea)
Mesua ferrea, or ironwood tree, is native to India and holds cultural significance. It is revered in Hindu mythology and used in sacred places. Its flowers are used in Ayurvedic medicine and perfumes, while its seeds produce Nagkesar oil for joint pain and skin disorders. The durable wood finds use in construction and furniture, and the bark has medicinal properties.
15. Champa (Michelia champaca)
The Champa tree, native to India and Southeast Asia, is revered for its beauty, fragrance, and cultural significance. Its flowers are used in Hindu rituals, perfumes, and Ayurvedic medicine, while the tree itself is valued for its ornamental and practical uses. It holds a special place in Indian culture.
16. Chandan (Santalum album)
The Champaca tree, native to India and Southeast Asia, is revered for its beauty, fragrance, and cultural significance. Its flowers are used in Hindu rituals, perfumes, and Ayurvedic medicine, while the tree itself is valued for its ornamental and practical uses. It holds a special place in Indian culture.
17. Sita Ashok (Saraca asoca)
The Sita Ashok tree, native to India, holds cultural and religious importance. According to Hindu mythology, it brought solace to Sita during her captivity. It has vibrant flowers, and medicinal properties, and is used in festivals. The tree is integral to Indian culture and daily life.
18. Ingudi (Balanties aegyptiaca)
The Ingudi tree, native to India, thrives in arid regions with thorny branches and pinnate leaves. It holds cultural importance and serves various practical purposes, including edible seeds, traditional medicine, fodder, crafts, and soap production. Sadly, it faces threats from deforestation, necessitating conservation efforts for its survival.
19. Salai guggul (Bowellia serrata)
The Salai Guggul tree (Boswellia serrata) is a medicinal deciduous tree native to India, found in dry and hilly regions like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra. Its resin, “guggul,” is used in Ayurveda for various purposes, including anti-inflammatory, joint health, cholesterol management, respiratory support, wound healing, digestive health, and oral care. Consult a healthcare expert for safe use. Ongoing scientific research explores its potential benefits.
20. Dhup ( Shorea robusta)
The Dhup tree, scientifically known as Shorea robusta, is a vital species native to India, found in dense forests and moist regions. Its resin, called “Sal gum” or “Indian Dammar,” holds cultural and ecological importance and is used in incense, varnish, medicine, adhesive, and some foods. Conservation efforts protect this valuable tree.
21. Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)
The Lotus tree (Nelumbo nucifera), significant in India’s culture and religion, thrives in shallow waters. In Hinduism and Buddhism, it symbolizes purity and spiritual enlightenment, with deities often depicted on it. The plant has practical uses too: its seeds are edible, parts used in medicine and cosmetics, offered in religious ceremonies, and valued for ornamental purposes. The Lotus embodies beauty, purity, and spirituality, making it a cherished aspect of Indian heritage.
22. Hapushaa (Juniperus macropoda)
The Hapushaa tree (Juniperus macropoda) holds cultural and ecological importance in India. Native to the western Himalayas, it thrives at higher altitudes in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Locals use it for medicinal purposes, incense, and fuel. It is also employed in drug formations used in urinogenital disorders and cutaneous diseases. Exhausted fruits are used as one of the ingredients of drug formulations used as diuretic. The oil is expectorant and suppurative.
23. Jasmine (Jasminum)
Beautiful, fragrant, and bright – Jasmine is an evergreen shrub that is native to India and some areas of Africa, Australia, and Asia that feature a tropical climate. There are 150+ varieties of Jasmine to be found. They are highly utilized in making essential oils, perfumes, cosmetics, and even tea leaves.
24. Chaulmoogra (Hydnocarpus wightiana)
The Chaulmoogra tree, scientifically known as Hydnocarpus wightiana, thrives in India, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. Its oil has been vital in Ayurvedic medicine for treating leprosy due to its antibacterial properties. While modern medicine has replaced it for leprosy, the oil remains used in skincare products for eczema, psoriasis, and fungal infections. Cultivation efforts help preserve biodiversity and India’s traditional medical heritage.
25. Indian Kamla (Mallotus philipinensis)
The Indian Kamla tree, Mallotus philippensis, holds cultural importance and is native to tropical and subtropical regions of India. It is a medium-sized deciduous tree with heart-shaped leaves and small red fruits. Its medicinal properties are utilized in traditional Indian medicine, and its red fruits are used as a natural dye and for temporary tattoos. The Kamla tree’s significance extends to its role in the ecosystem, enriching India’s biodiversity and daily life.
Why do we need to preserve native trees?
Preserving native trees in India is crucial for biodiversity conservation, ecological balance, and climate resilience. These trees provide critical habitats for various species, maintain soil fertility, and act as carbon sinks, mitigating the impacts of climate change. Additionally, native trees hold cultural significance and traditional value, reflecting India’s rich heritage. To secure a sustainable future, collective efforts are essential to protect and nurture these vital components of India’s natural environment.
India’s native trees offer a rich and diverse ecosystem, serving as vital habitats for flora and fauna while providing ecological benefits like soil conservation and carbon sequestration. Culturally significant, these trees are intertwined with spiritual practices and traditional medicine. However, urbanization, deforestation, and climate change pose threats to their survival. Conservation efforts, community involvement, and sustainable practices are crucial to protect these valuable resources for a greener and more sustainable future.
Written by Bhumika Malviya from Nelda. Images have the copyrights of the respective sources.