Bengal varsity conserving rare plants from South America, Africa

Kolkata: Enriching its collection of rare flora, University of Burdwan (BU) in West Bengal has recently become home to a giant water lily - a plant native to South America - with leaves spanning 1.6 metres in diameter. As per a MoU between BU and Botanical Survey of India (BSI), the varsity has acquired some rare plants for its Golapbag campus in Burdwan district. "Noteworthy among them are giant water lily, branched palm (North Africa), cannon ball tree. Victoria cruziana (giant water lily) was planted on May 19. Its leaves have now reached the diameter of 160cm," Jai Prakash Keshri, Professor, DBT Coordinator, UGC Centre for Advanced studies in Botany, at BU told IANS. BU is famous for its landscape botanical garden where over 150 plants of century-old West Indian mahogany (Sweitenia mahogini) grow. It is native to southern Florida in the US and islands in the Caribbean including the Bahamas. Apart from training and financial aid, Prakash said under the agreement with the BSI will help in the inclusion of Golapbag along with adjoining Ramna Bagan, as 'Protected Site' to conserve the plant diversity of the area. "They will aid us in developing the existing herbarium including the digitisation with the help of Central National Herbarium as well as develop and enrich the existing botanical garden," he said. The varsity on its part has extended its research facilities to the organisation among other things. Over 500 species of flowering plants, 30 species of ferns, over 400 species of microbes, algae and fungi are growing in the campus. Over 72 species of birds including migratory birds are regular visitors to the campus, Keshri said. "Recently, the university has started a programme to conserve the germplasm of traditional rice varieties including aromatic rice. A germplasm conservatory of mango has been established at Crop Research and Seed Multiplication Farm at the varsity where over 45 varieties of mango are growing," he added.