Calicut University Botanical Garden (CUBG)

Established in 1971 in the lush green panoramic, undulating, lateritic, hummocky land of the Calicut University Campus, the Calicut University Botanical Garden (CUBG), has developed into an excellent centre of biodiversity and ex situ conservation of tropical Indian flora and exotic species. The Garden, the brainchild of Prof. B.K. Nayar, the first Head of the Department of Botany, was inaugurated in 1972 by Prof. R.E. Holttum, the then Director, Singapore Botanical Garden.

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In 1985 the CUBG achieved international status when it was recognized by the International Consortium of Botanic Garden and Centre for World Conservation Strategy.

At the entrance on the western side, the visitors are greeted by a display map and a pair of Krishna’s buttercup trees (Ficus krishnae). The Garden reception office is located close to the entrance from where the details of the garden are available to the visitors.

The garden sprawls over 19.5 acres with a shallow basin encompassed by the slopping terrains except for a narrow gap on the southern side where it slides down to a small transitory reservoir, providing diverse habitats and niches for a variety of plants. The central shallow region is provided with a graceful, placid pool and an octagonal green house and avenues of Royal Palms and oil palms. The 1 km long motorable ring road from the main entrance on the western side touching the greenhouse, ginger zone, Victoria pond, northern gate, bamboosetum and rockery provides an extension to the arboretum and medicinal plant conservatory enabling a quick walk/journey through the exquisite and luxuriant vegetation of myriads of hues and fragrance.

NO 2                                                                      Ficus krishnae                                                                                                                      Nepenthes khasiana

Ex situ conservation of the Rare, Endangered and Threatened (RET) plants of South India is the major thrust area of the garden.

The garden also holds many curious plants such as insectivorous Nepenthes khasiana, the upside-down tree, Adansonia digitata, the giant Victoria lily, Victoria amazonica and the cannon ball tree, Couroupita guianensis.

Arboretum: Recently, the University has allotted another 13.5 acres of land adjacent to the garden for the arboretum. This area on the southern part is an undisturbed patch of natural forest allowing the succession in a natural way. This is the core area where visitors are not permitted to disturb the vegetation. The tree canopy is almost closed, and a stream passing through the arboretum supports the luxuriant growth of different kinds of shrubs, herbs, and climbers on its sides.

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A banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis) is spreading with its prop roots and provides a good habitat for a number of epiphytic plants. The wild plants include Hugonia mystax, Memecylon umbellatum, Mimusops elengi and Sterculia guttata. Many climbers such as Anamirta cocculus, Calycopteris floribunda, Gymnema sylvestre and epiphytes such as Acampe praemorsa and Pyrrosia spp. give a feeling of tropical wet evergreen forest inside the arboretum. Huge woody gymnospermous climber, Gnetum ula and a magnificent Antiaris toxicaria (Maravuri) of 25 m high are the main attraction of this tree garden.

Aroids:

One of the major attractions of the central octagonal Green House is its diverse collection of wild and ornamental aroids. More than 60 species of aroids including the RET and endemic ones are well displayed in one section. It includes species of Amorphophallus, Anaphyllum, Alocasia, and Xanthosoma, ornamental aroids such as Aglaonema, Anthurium, Caladium, Dieffenbachia, Spathiphyllum and Zamioculcas known for their foliage and spadices with vivid display of colours are also beautifully displayed in the green house. In addition, epiphytic climbers such as Epipremnum, Monstera, Philodendron, and Rhaphidophora are growing well on trees in moist shady locations in the garden merging with the natural vegetation at its border.

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Aquatic Plants: Diverse collections of aquatic plant species of Kerala are maintained in tanks in an open sunny location adjacent to the green house. The collection includes the floating Azolla, Eichhornia, Lemna, Pistia, Salvinia, Spirodela, Wolffia and emergents such as Alisma, Nelumbium, Lagenandra and Thalia. Submerged aquatics like Blyxa, Cabomba, Ceratophyllum, Cryptocoryne, Hydrilla, Microsorum, and Vallisneria. Different species of Nymphoides with magnificent white flowers are another added attraction to this collection. The giant water lily, Victoria amazonica is kept separately in a pond close to the Oil Palm Avenue.

NO 4                                                                               Ludwigia sedoides                                                                                                                         Acorus calamus

Bamboosetum: On the northern sloppy terrain which is predominantly lateritic,  occupies a good collection of bamboos. The Budda’s belly bamboo (Bambusa ventricosa), Thornless Bamboo and Yellow Bamboo (B. striata) are some of the major attractions. Species such as Bambusa multiplex are trained to elegant bushes bordering the ring road towards the Northern boundary.

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Bryophytes: Over 20 species of bryophytes (Liverworts, Hornworts, and Mosses) naturally occur in CUBG. Cyathodium, Riccardia and Riccia are the common liverworts. Anthoceros and Notothylas are Hornworts and Bryum, Fissidens, Hyophila and Octoblepharum are some of the common mosses found here during the monsoon months.

Cacti and succulents house:

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The garden is a delight to all those who enjoy rare and exotic xerophytes in an idyllic setting in a separate house. Many large cacti and succulents like Caralluma, Cereus, Euphorbia antiquorum, Opuntia, Sansevireria, Stapelia, etc., are grown in here under a specially designed structure with laterite and pebbles simulating its natural environs.

Ferns and Fern Allies (Pteridophytes):

These non-flowering, primitive plants are exquisite for their magnificent leaf architecture. The CUBG has the biggest collection of wild pteridophytes among the University Botanical Gardens in India with over 100 species. Most of the collections are from the Western Ghats of South India. Edible fern (Athyrium esculentum), Club mosses (Lycopodium sp.), Little club mosses  (Selaginella sp.), Maiden hair ferns (Adiantum sp.), Moon worts (Botrychium sp.), Mosquito ferns (Azolla sp.), Royal fern (Osmunda regalis), Salvinia molesta, Birds nest fern (Asplenium nidus), Stag-horn ferns (Platycerium sp.) and Tree fern (Cyathea) are grown in the garden. Big clump of Angiopteris evecta, Psilotum nudum and Equisetum ramosissimum (horse-tail) are some other curious additions.

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Angiopteris evecta

Gingers: A good collection of gingers (Zingiberaceae) is maintained in different green houses viz. ‘Ginger villa’, ‘Ginger House’ and ‘Spices House’ and in the “Ginger Zone” of the Botanical Garden. This forms the largest collection of live gingers in India. The collection includes gingers from Northeast India, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and exotics from China, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. About 80% of the live collections of Indian gingers are maintained in the CUBG.   

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It covers over 2000 accessions belonging to about 200 taxa, of which over 60 taxa are endemic and about 30 are endangered. The wild relatives of economically important genera such as Alpinia, Amomum, Curcuma, Elettaria, Hedychium and Zingiber are conserved in field simulating its natural habitat. A good number of exotic ornamentals, as well as potential ornamentals are also included.

Wild bananas:

A unique and fascinating collection of Musaceae comprising 41 taxa of wild bananas from India is beautifully grown in the central low lying area. Magnificent spadices of Southeast Asian, Musa hakkineinii and Musa ornate amidst lush green foliage catches our attention even from a distance. Large bottle-like bases of Ensete superbum and E. glaucum with their large stiff foliage are also an eye-catching sight in the garden. Apart from the wild bananas, 24 Indian cultivars of Musa also enrich the banana collections here. These include 28 endemic taxa and 15 endangered species.

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Gymnosperms: In addition to the native Cycas circinalis other cycads such as Zamia floridana, Z. furfuracea, Dioon mejiae and conifers such as Agathis, Araucaria, Cupressus, Juniperus and Podocarpus are also represented.A large woody Gnetum ula, a plant climbing over huge trees bearing male and female cones is yet another attraction.

NO 8                                                                               Podocarpus                                                                                                                        Cycas circinalis

Medicinal Plants: One of the major attraction is the rich and varied collection of medicinal plants from the Western Ghats of Kerala. A separate Medicinal Plant House holding over 200 species of medicinal herbs and shrubs are displayed in the galleries. The collections include ‘Nalpamara’ (comprising 4 species of Ficus) ‘Dasamoolam’ (10 medicinal root plants) and ‘Dasapushpam’ (10 sacred plants of Kerala tradition and culture).

Rauvolfia serpentina (the source plant of Reserpine) Sida spp. (Kurunthotti used in the ayurvedic medicine Ksheerabala) Acorus calamus L. ('Vayambu') an aquatic aroid, are some of the important medicinal plants.

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The rare ‘Maramanjhal’ (Coscinium fenestratum) is well growing in the Medicinal Plant House as well as in the open garden. Some of the beautiful medicinal herbs exhibited are quite poisonous. Examples include the common castor bean, Ricinus communis, Datura metel and Strychnos nux-vomica. Many other plants included in this collection can also be toxic if misused. Adjacent to the medicinal plant collections ‘star-plants’ are also displayed in an open courtyard. This ‘star-plants’ collection forms another attraction to visitors.

Orchidarium: Over 50 species of wild orchids such as Acampe, Aerides, Calanthe, Geodorum, Habenaria, Oberonia, Rhynchostylis and Seidenfia are grown in the green house. Endemic species like, Acanthephippium bicolor, Ipsea malabarica, (Malabar daffodil) are conserved in the orchidarium. Ornamental orchids like Dancing girl (Oncidium) Dove orchid (Peristeria), Soniya (Dendrobium), Spider orchid (Arachnis) are the attractions of the orchidarium.

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Ornamental Plants: A good number of ornamental plants (both foliage and flowering) are displayed in the garden. The alluring leafy ornamentals include a large collection of Aroids, Bromiliads, Calatheas, Crotons (Codiaeum variegatum) and Marantas. The major flowering plants are: Calliandra, Cosmos, Dianthus, Gerbera, Lantana, Tagetes, Verbena and Zinnia. The brilliantly hued flowers of Arachis glabrata forms a yellow carpet near Victoria pond during April-May every year. The garden has five varieties of Frangipani (Plumeria  sp.).

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Mushrooms and other macro fungi: The Calicut University Botanical Garden is remarkable for the very high diversity of mushrooms and other macrofungi, most of which are well documented.  It is home to several hundreds of agaric species belonging to genera such as Agaricus, Amanita, Collybia, Coprinus, Entoloma, Hygrocybe, Lentinus, Marasmius, Mycena, Pleurotus and  Termitomyces. A monotypic genus, Auriculocypha was discovered in 1985 by Prof. P. Manimohan from the Botanical garden, which shows a fascinating instanceof fungus-insect-plant interactions. A number of gasteromycetes such as puffballs (Lycoperdon, Pisolithus), earth stars (Geastrum), bird’s nest fungi (Cyathus) and stink-horns (Dictyophora) are seen here. Several genera of coral fungi (Clavaria, Ramaria), jelly fungi (Auricularia, Tremella) and bracket fungi (Ganoderma, Hexagonia, Microporus, Phellinus, Polyporus)are encountered in the garden. Ascomycetes genera such as Daldinia, Peziza, Rhopalostroma, Trichoglossum and Xylaria are frequently seen.  Specimens of most of these fungi are preserved in the Mycology Laboratory of the Department of Botany.

mushrooms        Entoloma aurantium                   E. haematinum                       Inocybe akirna                                              Psathyrella sp.                                         Auriculoscypha anacardiicola

Palms: In addition to Coconut avenues of Royal Palms and Oil Palms, several other agri-horticulturally valued palms such as Areca, Arecastrum, Cyrtostachys, Licuala, Rhapis and Zalacca are introduced in the garden. Besides, the common Fish-tail palm, Caryota urens L., the monocarpic Talipot palm, Corypha umbraculifera run wild in large numbers. Western Ghat endemics such as Arenga wightii and Pinenga dicksonii also flourishes well along the eastern boundary of the garden. A few palms of the Nicobar endemic, Bentinckia nicobarica introduced to the garden a few years back are also well established.

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Spices: CUBG has one of the oldest Vanilla plantations. Black Pepper, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Clove, Ginger and Nutmeg are the other spices grown in the garden. A house for spices of ginger related species is set up near the green house and about 200 accessions from different parts of India are kept there.

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Trees and Lianas: Cashew (Anacardium), Jack fruit (Artocarpus) and Mango (Mangifera)  were present in the garden area before its acquisition.  Many tree species are introduced. Timber plants such as ‘Irul’ (Xylia), Mahogany (Swietenia), ‘Maruth’ (Terminalia), Rose wood (Dalbergia) and Teak (Tectona) are thriving well in the garden. The African Baobab (Adansonia digitata L.) is a curious tree. Other important trees are: Adenanthera, Aeroplane tree (Ochroma), African tulip tree (Spathodea), Camphor tree (Cinnamomum sp.), Champaka [Michelia nilagirica], Iron wood tree (Mesua ferrea), Rudraksha tree (Elaeocarpus sphaericus) and Sausage tree (Kigelia africana).

The beautiful flowering trees include Cochlospermum gossypium, Lagerstroemia specioca and Spathodea campanulata. Adenocalymma alliaceum, Quisqualis indica and Saritaea magnifica are the attractive climbers with graceful flowers.

Magnificent yellow blooms of Cat’s claw trumpet, Doxantha unguis-cati is the most striking and perhaps the most spectacular of all bignoniaceous climbers.

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Trekking path: A portion of the garden at its south-west border is retained to preserve the natural vegetation with a number of trees, palms, lianas and climbers. The undulating terrain with luxuriant growth of wild climbers such as Gnetum ula, Hugonia mystax, Calycopteris floribunda and the spiny straggling Hibiscus hispidissimus and Calamus thwaitesii offers visitors a feel of the warmth of the tropical forest while trekking through its narrow trail.

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Green Earth:

A separate green house called ‘Green Earth’ to house the Gesneriads and Arisaemas, Commelinas and Sonerilas was opened in October 2014 by Dr. Michael Möller, RBG, Edinburgh. The Gesneriaceae collections include both terrestrial and epiphytic taxa. Species of Didymocarpus, Henckelia, Rhynchotechum and Rhynchoglossum are well displayed in this section.

The monotypic and endemic, Jerdonia indica is an important addition. A few native species of ‘Cobra lilies’ such as Arisaema tortuosum, A. muricaudatum, A. tylophorum are grown as displayed in pots at the green earth. Weedy Commelinas along with exotic ornamentals such as Callisia, Cochirstema, Dichorismela and Tradescantia enrich the ‘Green Earth’collection.

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Touch and Feel Garden for visually impaired:

A separate section in the northern boundary of the garden is specially designed for the visually-impaired. This is an initiative funded by Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate change. With provisions to familiarize plants by touch and feel, this section started attracting the visually-impaired. About 65 species of aromatic and other curious plants and 34 seeds and fruits of diverse groups of vegetables, spices and medicinal plants are displayed here. The audio system and Braille scripts provide basic information including uses of all the plants exhibited in this garden. This is the largest of its kind in India.

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Contact Us

 

Department of Botany
University of Calicut
Thenhipallam PO
Malappuram - 673635
Phone : (0494) - 2407406 / 407
bothod@uoc.ac.in
 
 
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