Plant systematics and evolution of Lauraceae in India


The plants, source of the commercially important Cinnamon leaves and bark, belong to the plant family called Lauraceae. Diverse species of Lauraceae provides nutritionally rich edible fruits including the avocado and provide the timber for the domestic purpose. Ecologically, the diverse Lauracean plants distributed across low-elevation evergreen forest to broad-leaved temperate evergreen forest support large-bodied birds and mammals in addition to pollinators. With trees and shrubs as lifeforms, they are part of the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats, Himalayan forests and Northeast India.

In addition to diversity, the distribution, phylogeny and evolution of the Indian Lauraceae is associated with the origin of Indian plants dating back to several millions of years. We use morphological studies in combination with phylogenetic tools of Indian Lauraceae plants (Perseae and Laureae groups) to unravel the evolutionary relationship with rest of the world. Lauraceae, with their wider ecological amplitude and biogeographical antiquity, could be model plant taxa to demonstrate the importance of integrative approaches in taxonomy and their contribution towards biodiversity conservation in India. The outcomes of the research project will have a greater implication in conservation planning in the global hotspots of biodiversity (Himalayan, Indo-Burma and Western Ghats) in India.