Somerella speciesFlora of shola forests

Shola forests are rich storehouses of biodiversity. The flora show special characteristics, as they have to adapt to extreme climates and winds. As the high altitude sholas are like islands, disconnected from other regions, endemicity is high. Even branches of shola trees are colonised by a variety of species, many of them getting their water supply from the condensing mist. They will include mosses, ferns and other epiphytes besides woody climbers.

Hedyotis sweartiodesPredominant species in the shola forests include Measa indica, Microtropis ramiflora and Rhododendron arboreum. The grasslands will have a number of grass species, Chrysopogon zeylanicus and Eulalia phaeothrix being two of the predominant species in places such as Eravikulam National Park. More than 60 of the grasses here are endemic to Western Ghats.

The best of the grasslands have Dichanthium polyptychum according to studies done by Kerala Forest Research Institute. The Institute has separated several fungi belonging to Penicillium and other genuses from the shola grass lands of Idukki district.

However, it is to be noted that there could be considerable variations in the distribution and abundance of species in different localities. Some species grow only specific locations such as the edges of sholas or watercourses.

The shola grasslands habour several varieties of Strobilanthes species. Of more than 500 species belonging to the genus, more than 50 occur in India. Those reported from the shola grasslands between Kodaikanal and Munnar include Strobilanthes asperrium, Strobilanthes calycina, Strobilanthes cuspidatus, Strobilanthes foliosus, Strobilanthes gracilis, Strobilanthes homotropa, Strobilanthes luridus, Strobilanthes micranthus, Strobilanthes neilgherrensis, Strobilanthes papillosus, Strobilanthes perrottetiana, Strobilanthes pulneyensis, Strobilanthes tristis, Strobilanthes urceolaris, Strobilanthes violaceus, Strobilanthes wightianus and Strobilanthes cuspidatus. All except the first two are endemic to the Western Ghats.

Strobilanthes-foliosus Strobilanthes-pulneyensis
Strobilanthes pulneyensis
Strobilanthes foliosis
 (Chonayamkallu Kurinji) Strobilanthes species on shola edges.