Years of work in the forests of the Nilgiris, one of the 38 districts in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, vividly conveyed the high diversity of this region. One of the measures to enhance and strengthen conservation efforts in the area, was to record ﬂoral diversity. The Keystone Foundation initiated this work through building a forest seed collection. The seed display interested and impacted adivasis (a collective term for tribes of the Indian subcontinent), visitors and students and more information about each plant started coming in. What started as a seed collection, has now been transformed into this book; The need for a ﬁeld guide to flora was felt by the team members, who are most often in forested surroundings, working with bees or non timber forest produce. To go about with the help of a trained botanist was one route, the other was to understand the plant in its surroundings, learn from the perspective of the adivasi people the authors work with, and record it in an interesting manner – making it easier for a non-botanist ﬁeld person. The Keystone Foundation hopes that the second route would help open up new horizons.
The book contains primary work with adivasis or indigenous people of the Nilgiris Eastern Slopes, the Kurumba and the Irula, especially those who have a special afﬁnity to the forest. The plates for each plant are hand painted by L. Balasubramanium (Bala), a Kurumba, from this region. Some plants are also painted by Rangaswamy of Siryur, Krishna and Kannan of Banagudi. Bala is now part of an art and culture group called ‘Ajile Bottu’, initiated by Keystone to promote adivasi youth to undertake activities of this nature. Indigenous information regarding the plant and the paintings have been examined and discussed with several adivasis. In particular, the people of Velleri Combei, Semenarai, Joghi Combei, Keelkoop, PudurCombei and Baviyur are acknowledged for freely sharing their knowledge.
The authors hope that this field guide is useful for adivasis, especially the younger generation, to remind them of their intricate forest knowledge. This ﬁeld guide will ﬁnd application for ﬁeld workers, students and naturalists, not only in the Nilgiris, but in other similar forests of the Eastern and Western Ghats in India.