Last updated: 12 Aug, 2014

Shakti Nursery and Herbarium

Shakti Nursery
Engaged in conservation and propagation of the Tropical Dry Evergeen Forest (TDEF), Shakti Nursery is part of a wider project that aims at re-creating the indigenous forest in the Green Belt area of Auroville.

Shakti community and its nursery started in 1983, under challenging conditions, as initially there was no water, no electricity and no fence. Nursery work was started from the beginning, and a few years later, thanks to funding for the conservation and propagation of TDEF, it was possible to dedicate the nursery almost exclusively to raising TDEF species. In 1999 the Shakti nursery raised over 50,000 seedlings. In I981, the first issue of the ‘Auroville Index Seminum’ was published, listing all the seeds in Auroville available for exchange. The booklet was sent to the few Botanical Gardens known to the project at that time: just over fifty.

Special Herbarium

The next activity was the study of remnants of the TDEF, in collaboration with two other Aurovilians, and the setting up of the Auroville Herbarium. A herbarium is a collection of preserved plants. It is a tool for the taxonomist to study plants in terms of their medicinal or other properties, habitat, identification, correct name, etc. Criteria for the usefulness of the herbarium will be the completeness of its collection, the quality of the preserved material, and the labels, with comprehensive notes and correct names. The aim is to build up a so-called ‘Special Herbarium’, a herbarium with a limited scope, with the main purpose of representing the TDEF project with collections from  the remaining pockets of that type of forest over its entire geographical distribution area, and including also the invading flora in the disturbed, degraded and denuded areas. Collections are also required of the various plant associations on the different  soils in the area of the TDEF, such as the beach, new and consolidated dunes, salt marshes, black cotton soils and others. Interestingly, the very first collection for the Herbarium (AURO 5001), made in April 1994, involved a plant listed in the botanical literature as “very rare, probably extinct”. It is a liana belonging to the Fabaceae family, Derris ovalifolia, found mainly in and around the Auroville plateau  As the herbarium began to accept private collections from students - mostly Indian, but a few also from Europe -  the AURO Herbarium got expanded to a much wider variety of species, and is growing faster than anticipated, with more than 15,000 accessions to date. (Re accession, if one has in the herbarium a collection of, say, 10 times the
same plant, it counts as 1 species but 10 accessions.) The broader goal now is to incorporate collections from a wider field, including the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, and other parts of India. From surveys in the Andaman and Nicobar group of islands so far six species have been identified as new to science. To keep the plant material free from fungus and insect attacks, the humidity in the herbarium is kept at 60% and the room is fumigated twice a year. The collections are open for study by botanists and taxonomists, and can be consulted by interested Aurovilians. A library can be visited during working hours. 

For more info Ph. 0413-2622024, Walter 9047375480

Tina and Walter