MYRISTICA SWAMPS

(Image above)

COMMON NAME: Magnificent nutmeg

 

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Myristica fatua var. magnifica

FAMILY: Myristicaceae

OTHER NAMES: 

Ramapatre (Kannada)

Kottapannu, Kothapayin, Churapayin, Kotthapanu (Malayalam)

DISTRIBUTION: Endemic to the Myristica swamps

DESCRIPTION: A tree of up to 20 m height

Myristica species are also wild relatives of the Indonesian True nutmeg (Myristica fragrans), from which we derive the nutmeg spice we eat. Their fruit structures are very similar. Take a look at the image above: it shows the inside of a magnificent nutmeg fruit, with a large seed and brightly coloured seed coating. Nutmeg spice is derived from such a seed, while the seed coating gives us mace.

A swamp is an area of land that is permanently filled with water. They are often named after the trees that grow in them—which is how we get the name Myristica swamps.

 

Across the world, there are two main kinds of swamps: saltwater swamps, which form on tropical coastlines, and freshwater swamps which form inland, around lakes and streams. Swamps are therefore neither completely land nor water, but transition zones between the two.

 

Myristica swamps are freshwater swamps. It is believed that Myristica swamps at one time would have formed a network along the water courses through the primeval forests of the Western Ghats. Since then, much of it has been converted for agriculture or irrigation projects, and the remaining swamp land can be found in smaller patches.

 

It is difficult for plants to grow in water-logged conditions, so they have evolved various kinds of adaptations such as aerial roots. In fact, some Malaysian species of Myristica have aerial roots when found in swamps, but not when found elsewhere! In these pictures, and in your book, you can see the stilt roots of the Magnificent nutmeg (Myristica fatua) and the knob roots of the Kanara nutmeg (Gymnacranthera canarica). Such roots provide additional support to the plant, while also allowing the roots to breathe.

 

The Myristica swamps have a great number of endemic species, both flora and fauna. The lion-tailed macaque, the Myristica sapphire damselfly, several fish and amphibians are only found in this habitat. Swamps are also especially important for environmental stability. During times of heavy rain, swamps naturally help to control floods by storing excess water.

Additionally, in swampy areas, water is able to slowly seep into the soil, thereby replenishing our groundwater supply. The loss of swamp lands contribute to flooding and soil erosion.

(Image below)

COMMON NAME: Kanara nutmeg

 

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Gymnacranthera canarica

FAMILY: Myristicaceae

OTHER NAMES: 

Pindi (Kannada)

Pintikkaya, Udaipami, Undaipanu, Undapayin (Malayalam)

DISTRIBUTION: Endemic to the Myristica swamps

DESCRIPTION: A tree of up to 25 m height

© All images on this page are the work and property of Prasanjeet Yadav