Population status and floral biology of Trichopus zeylanicus ssp. travancoricus Burkill ex K. Narayanan (Dioscoreaceae), an important ethnomedicinal plant of the southern Western Ghats, India

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Nambi Sasikala
R. Ramasubbu


Trichopus zeylanicus ssp. travancoricus is locally known in Tamil Nadu as Arogyapachai, meaning a plant that provides good health and vitality.  The unripe fruits of the plant are highly rejuvenating and are used by the Kani Tribe to ameliorate fatigue.  This subspecies is also known for its pharmacological and medicinal utility and possesses choleretic, aphrodisiac, hepatoprotective, mast cell stabilizing, adaptogenic, and cardioprotective properties.  A study was attempted to understand the population status and floral biology of T. zeylanicus ssp. travancoricus in its natural habitat.  The population of this herb was found to be severely fragmented and settled in shaded banks of streams and rivulets in Agasthyamalai Hills.  Being a rhizomatous herb, its flowers are concealed by its broad leaves, thus preventing exposure to pollinators.  The number of pollinating agents in the flowers was reported as meager.  The fruits are capsules with two to six seeds, each having a hard seed coat with a projected endosperm.  Therefore, the conventional propagation of the subspecies is not so successful due to its poor seed set and prolonged maturation time.  In addition, the fruits are damaged by rodents, livestock, and collection for medicinal usage, which severely affect the population status of the plant.  Sustainable use of this wonder herb is important for its conservation in its natural habitat.

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