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The Auroville Botanical Garden

Progress report

- update December 2001


The Garden's main focus will be the conservation of indigenous species. As the native Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest of the Coromandel Coast has almost totally disappeared and as there is no other Botanical Garden existing along the entire east coast between Kolkota and Kanyakumari, the value of this project is only too obvious.

With this urgent need to document and preserve the local flora, the work at the Garden has started off with whatever support and means possible. So far most of the funds have come from within the community and voluntary help from individuals. Over the last months a detailed 5 year project proposal was written which will be sent out for overseas funding. Till then the work will continue slowly as the finances allow.

Garden workshop demonstration

Work progress from January to October 2001

  • In the beginning of 2001 a generous donation helped purchase a very needed windmill which enabled the new caretaker family to move to the site, giving the place the important 24 hour presence. With plenty of water, also the freshly planted, young TDEF species survived the long hot summer months. The monsoon last year had been a total failure so without the additional watering only a few plants would have made it.

  • The caretakers of the Garden are also part of the seed-savers network 'Annadanna' which is now being established on the site. In association with Kokopelli, this organisation is involved in preserving traditional vegetable and flower seeds from all over the world. This is their first base in India and research has already started to see which varieties are best suited to this region.

  • In May the B.G. team made their first official visit to the Tropical Botanical Garden Research Institute in Kerala. This research institute covers a sprawling area with a wild indigenous forest and natural river. As our time was limited only the most important features were looked into and discussed with the Gardens Staff. A lot of ideas and inspiration were generated for the future detailed planning of the Auroville B.G.

  • July saw the first dry pond dug with the help of a JCB. It took 3 days to dig and shape the hole and mound, creating some relief in the flat landscape. This is one of the many to come, adding character to the land and catching precious rainwater.

  • September and October were spent preparing for the arboretum planting. Large pits of 1 X 1 mtr were dug and filled with an ideal compost and soil mix to welcome the patiently waiting seedlings who have been waiting for months in their tightly crammed plastic bags. A lot of manual help was received from volunteers and visiting students who sweated in the heat making it a joint, fun work-out session.

  • November will be time for planting and hopefully again individuals, students and groups will participate in this nice collaborative work of planting trees together.

  • A small fundraising scheme 'Sponsor a Tree' was started to help finance the arboretum planting.

Honey bee workshop with Maurice, visiting from Europe

Overview and numbers

As indicated on our intro page, the development of the fifty acre site was begun in the autumn of 2000, with the planting of an indigenous forest area on 10 acres. This will eventually double in size when the next area for the Gardens are purchased. The first planting consisted only of climax species for the Tropical Dry Evergreen forest type of which there are approximately 35 woody species, all of which are evergreen and have similar ecological traits such as berry bearing and small, white, perfumed flowers. When the area is developed further, other secondary and colaniser species will be included, which will raise the number of represented woody species to approximately 135.

In the autumn of 2001 the arboretum was begun with the planting of 167 species of tree and 35 species of shrub. The arboretum surrounds the future area of the formal gardens with an inner ring of ornamental flowering trees. The first phase included most of the indigenous and native India trees that are common in and around Auroville. The trees are at wide spacing, 10 -15 meters, and will be grown as specimen trees.

Dioecious species have two representatives, one of each sex. The plantings have been arranged as per genus as far as is possible, and most families have been planted. However, certain larger, more diverse and interesting families such as Euphorbiaceae and Ficus will be planted out in specialised areas of the Gardens in the future, and so their representation in the arboretum planting this year has been minimal.

So far an area of 10 acres has been covered and this will be expanded in subsequent years as and when species become available.


Contact: nevi@auroville.org.in

Botanical Gardens
605 101, TN

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