Kaas Week: October 1 to 14, 2012-Coordinator Mr. Shrikant Ingalhalikar: I am posting the introduction a little ahead since many of the members may be visiting Kas in the next 2 weeks. I request members to post plants found only on the lateritic plateau and avoid posting plants found in the surroundings. This will make the episode unique for the habitat typical to wstern ghats. Plants for ID may please be provided with brief description of the plant.
INTRODUCTION: KAS WEEK 1 to 14 OCT 2012.
If western ghats of India is one among the few bio diversity hotspots of the world, then Kas plateau near Satara in Maharashtra is the hottest spot in western ghats. Kas, the celebrated plateau of flowers is recently recognised by the UNESCO as world natural heritage site. Kas is a lateritic plateau on the crest of north western ghats of India located to the west of Satara in Maharashtra. A road leading to Bamnoli cuts through the plateau and descends to Kas lake formed by a bund. Kas plateau has only a shallow cover of soil in scattered depressions, though most of it is composed of exposed porous soft rock. The annual rainfall is about 150 cm. The plateau is netted with small streams and poodles. A natural beautiful lake on the north-west side of the plateau is the largest water body.
The flora on Kas plateau consists of herbaceous plants, many of them being ephemerals. The east and west sides of Kas plateau have semi evergreen forests containing small trees and shrubs. The plateau is also dotted with clumps of shrubs, Memecylon being the dominant species. Most of the surface of plateau is covered by the clumps of small shrubs of Pleocaulus or the ‘Topli Karvi’, an intriguing plant that explodes into masses of blue flowers once in 7 years.
The floral extravaganza at Kas begins with the advent of north-west monsoon. Groups of plants bloom in pure stands in succession and exhibit a hue of a single colour which changes every 2 weeks. Cobra-lilies, lilies and terrestrial orchids are the first plants to bloom with the arrival of first showers. Bladderworts and Eriocaulons follow in patches of dark blue and white. The pink of Impatiens takes over the arena which is then followed by dazzling yellows of Smithias. Hidden among the masses of colourful flowers are many species of tiny flowering plants including the insectivorous Sundew Plant.
Climbers and taller herbs flower in the latter part of monsoon to keep the show going. Shrubs and trees have their turns in early summer. Most species at Kas are small herbs growing on wet rocks. They have to grow quickly and have to produce flowers and seeds, before water disappears at the end of monsoon. Herbaceous plants are grazed by the cattle kept by local people.
As soon as sun emerges from behind the clouds in October, the colourful plateau quickly dries up and bears a brown colour. The wind disperses the tiny seeds into holes and crevices. Many small herbs go into hibernation with their underground tubers, bulbs and rhizomes preserving life for the next monsoon. The accumulated biomass on the plateau gets crispy dry in the scorching sunlight. In dry hot season the leaf litter on the plateau catches fire either accidentally or intentionally. The fire travels with the speed of wind and gets doused also in the same stride without causing much damage to the trees and shrubs standing on the plateau. The underground parts of the hibernating plants remain safe in the fire. Some plants appear to wait for the fire to pass over. Lepidagathis, Drimias, and Euphorbias send out flowers only after the fire, as if they rejuvenate like Phoenix from the ashes.
The spectacle of Kas flowers has been unfolding each year after surviving through annual grazing and burning, yet Kas flora is threatened by the insurgence of thousands of visitors thronging the plateau on peak flowering days. Let us pray that mighty nature wins over the invading man and protects the heavenly flowers for our future generations to enjoy them.
Endangered Plants of Kas
1. Ceropegia jainii ………….. Critically Endangered
2. Aponogeton satarensis . Endangered
3. Dipcadi ursulae ………….. Endangered
4. Habenaria panchganiensis Endangered
5. Impatiens lawii ………….. Endangered
6. Murdannia lanuginosa . Endangered
7. Adenoon indicum ……… Near Threatened
8. Arisaema sahyadricum . Near Threatened
9. Euphorbia fusiformis …. Near Threatened
10. Flemingia nilgiriensis .. Near Threatened
11. Ceropegia media ………. Vulnerable
12. Hitchenia caulina ……… Vulnerable
13. Iphigenia stellata ………. Vulnerable
14. Smithia agharkarii …….. Vulnerable
15. Seshagiria sahyadrica Vulnerable
Let me brief about the origin of Kas name. Kas village is few km ahead of Kas Plateau. The name of village comes from a tree Elaeocarpus glandulosus which is found in that region. Locally this tree is known as Kasa or Kasav (tortoise). Long vowels are phonetically written as Kás and not as ‘Kaas’. The local names of Elaecarpus glandulosus are written in T. Cooke’s flora as Kásav, Kásá. It is possible that even IUCN may have spelled it as Kaas after various websites. ‘Kas’ may stand as ‘odd man out’ but websites need not be considered as authentic.
Some more info on Kas:
Micro-Habitat and Micro-Climate: Kas Week 1 to 14 October 2012
Habitat and climate of Kas Plateau is typical of north Western Ghats and it will be worthwhile looking into more details. Plateaus like Kas are found from south Gujarat to north Karnataka through Maharashtra. They are located above 800 m altitude and are formed by iron-rich duricrusts. They are called as rock outcrops or table lands. Kas Plateau lacks proper substrate and characterizes extremely stressful climatic conditions such as high winds, daily thermal variation, high evaporation, poor water retention and high UV exposure. Humidity of 90% in monsoon suddenly falls to 14% in dry season and exposed rocks may reach a temperature of 58˚ C. Plants here exhibit adaptations as succulence, carnivory and having underground organs such as rhizomes, tubers and bulbs. Plants on Kas are mostly ephemerals and seasonal herbs, though there are few plants that flower in the scorching heat of summer.
I request members to add observations on phenology and ecology of plants being posted so that its relevance with typical climate and habitat can be highlighted.
For more info on plateaus