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Flora and Fauna of Nagaland
By: Thepfulhouvi Angami

You are my son today; I have become your father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.
-Psalm 2:7-8

(Nagaland includes all areas inhabited by Nagas in North-East India and Burma.)
There are more varieties of plants in a mountain range in Naga Country than in the whole of one Country in the world and there is more aquatic life in a small river than in a thousand kilometer length of the Holy Ganga. Size for size, the area inhabited by the Nagas dwarfs in comparison with the subcontinent of India, but compared in terms of the varieties of flora and fauna, it could be quite possible that the positions of the two would be changed.

Where in the world would one find elephants living on mountain tops? Where in the world would one find a flying lizard singing a more heart-rending strain than the nieghtingale bird? - And lizards are the most silent of the lung-bearing animals: Where in the world would one find a banana tree thriving at an altitude much higher than a lofty tropical tree? There are trees which produce poison gas, there are leaves whose strings are more painful than snake bites, and there are fruits - wild ones, sweeter than saccharine -fruits of such a lingering sweetness that leave your taste spoilt for any other taste several days after. The flora and fauna of our land is truly varied.

The flora of a place is the result of the interplay of a combination of factors - edaphic, climatic and topographic. Being mountainous and having received heavy rainfall for many millennium in the past ages, one would expect the soil of the land of the thickest top-soil layers anywhere in the world. In many a place, the ground has been cut 100m into the mountain side without meeting the underlying rock. It is surprising to see how such a mountainous area with the heaviest of rainfall in the world coupled with the devastating method of Jhum Cultivation could still have such thick top-soil in its land. The reason may be found in the porous nature of soil where every rainfall sinks underground where it falls without surface flow or water current. It may also be due to the tremendous speed with which the plants cover up any bare area of the soil surface. This is due to the excellent plant growth conditions of soil, water and temperature prevalent in the area.

The topography and the geography of an area always have a tremendous influence on the vegetation of any area. The Naga Country lies in the temperate zone and is mountainous. But, its mountains are not craggy, awesome and precipitous as in the Himalayas. The mountains of the Naga Country have a forthright, inviting and lovely look, covered with every green vegetation and full of life.

The mountains ranges of Naga Country run in a general north-south direction and rise, range, from west to east with the highest ranges, the Patkoi Mountain Ranges forming a natural boundary between India and Burma. The highest non-Himalayan peak of the Indian sub-continent Saramati (3840/12,598 ft) - is in this ranges. As the mountain ranges run in a north to south direction, but the rivers of Naga Country flow either from east to west into the Brahmaputra in India or from west to east into the chindwin in Burma. The Naga Country straddles the vast land between these two great river systems into which all its rivers pour their waters. the greater part of the land that drains itself into the chindwin in the east lies in Burma and the smaller, western part that drains into the Brahmaputra lies in India.

Rainfall in Nagaland is not only heavy but also wide spread over many months of the year. An average 2000m (80 inches) of rainfall is obtained in about 8 months of the year, though the period from the middle of June to mid -September experience the heavies rainfalls. During the vegetation also receives moisture from moist clouds. In addition, the vegetation also receives moisture from moist clouds roll, through the plants on the mountain sides. Even on days when there is no rain, these moisture-laden clouds blow through the vegetation leaving them damp and green. This encourages the profuse growth of Lichens which characteristically festoon trees.

There is also winter rain at least once or twice a year. In addition, there are monsoon thunder showers accompanied by hail which may sometimes be very devastating to orchards and plantations.

During the winter, heavy frost is found in the higher reaches of the mountains.

Stormy winds are experienced during February March, and every year it is not unusual to find the roofs of houses missing after particularly stormy night. In fact, there in a saving that were it not for the leeches and the wind, the place would have been a paradise.

The Naga Country is botanically one of the riches spots in the world. It has been mentioned that Naga Land has areas with climatic conditions ranging from the Apline in the higher reaches of its mountains to moist, hot tropical conditions in the foot hills adjoining Assam Plain. As would be expected, the area has vegetational types ranging from alpine types to moist tropical types. In addition, the arrangement of the mountain range such that it creates rain shadow areas where the conditions are dry and hot supporting even species of the desert regions.

In Naga Land there are trees so tall that shots of 12 bore guns can not kill pigeons perched on their tops. There are bamboo species no bigger that the thumb which entwine themselves up hundreds of feet to the tops of tall trees. Again, some bamboo (D. Gigantium) are so big that several strong men are required to lift even a single piece. Then, there are bamboo species as small as a little finger but hundreds to times stronger than its own size and tougher and more elastic than fiber glass.

For most plant species, there is a growing season, a dormant season, and in between, a short flowering and fruiting season. In Naga Land, there species which grow continuously day and night, month after month and season after season without any dormant period until they are big and nature bear fruits. Such species not only have leaves to manufacture their food, but have green trunks where food is manufactured as in a green and leafless cactus. Naturally, there are some of the fastest growing trees in the world. The alder (Alnus Nepalensis) of Naga Land and some cedrellas easily outgrow ever the fastest growing Eucalyptus. An individual sapling of Azadiracta species grew 1150 mm (3'10") in 13 days.

An interesting aspect of the flora of Naga Land is the abundance of edible wild plants and fruits. The number of edible plants found in the wild far out number domesticated vegetables. Even today wild vegetables from the forest constitute a very significant part of the food of the people. In fact, it would not be surprising if, in the coming decades, some wild plants became excellent domesticated vegetables.

Wild fruits are not only varied but are also quite plentiful. Wild grapes, wild apple, wild lemon, wild bananas, wild mangoes, wild walnut, wild mulberry, wild cherry and a host of other indigenous fruits are to be found. There are fruits sweet, sour and bitter and those with tastes in between without number. And today, some of the wild fruits are increasingly emerging as a very saleable commodity. Those living away from the villages relish the taste of wild fig which is perhaps the most abundant and saleable fruit of the forests. The domestication of some of the wild fruits could, in fact, add to the food variety of mankind.

Of the list of economic wild plants, there is no immediate end. The list of wild medicinal plants runs into several hundreds. Chalmugra, from the seeds of which is extracted and oil for the treatment of leprosy and ginseng, used for curing cancer, are some of the better known medicinal plants to be found in this area. Also found is the valued Coptistitia as well as other leaves and herbs for the treatment of diverse diseases and ailments.

Similarly, the number of poisonous plants are also numerous. Some plants are so poisonous that rashes and ruptures appear on the skin of persons standing in their proximity. The stings of others may cause pain continuing for about three months, as there is no known remedy.

One herb in particular has a fruit that remains gummy and effective for years and is used as a control against rats. The herb, with its fruit-bearing branches is kept in strategic places. When rats push through the bundle, their eyelids are glued together by the sticky rendering them unable to open their eyes and thus preventing them from entering granary huts through rat holes. The juice of another plant is used as a paralysing chemical in arrows used for shooting animals. The sticky juices of some fruits are also used for trapping birds and pests.

Some plants in Naga Country appear to have created solely for blooming. Strains of Prunuses, Bauhenies and quite a few others produce such enormous blossoms that they do not seem to even have branches and leaves the whole tree is just a riot of colour. The variety and structure of wild flowers appears limitless. Sweetness in an environment of bitterness is perhaps more prizes, and beauty that comes out of a harsh and rough environment perhaps more lovely. It is wonderful how plants growing in harsh, craggy and severe mountain environs can produce lovely, beautiful and delicate flowers.

The rare Shirio Lily (Lilium Shirohi) is found only in the shiroi Mountian in Naga Country. The tallest Rhododendron in the world (108'8") is found in Mt. Japhu. The tallest Pstenoatachium (Dzuli) is found only in the Naga Country, transport of which out of Nagaland is now prohibited. Rhododendron Macabiunum was first discovered in Mt. Japhu by the first Political Assistant, Mr. Mocabe and his wife. Mr Johnstone, the first white surveyor of Naga Country, discovered the first Johnstonionum. Cymbidium Tigrinum is another beautiful orchid first discovered in Nagaland. This is only a sample list of the many plants discovered in this area.

This articles is not intended to be a Plant Section of the Guinness Book World Records, but an attempt to bring out the unique aspects of the flora and fauna of this beautiful land. Yet, it bears mention that Naga Country is one of the few places on this planet where any one hectare of land contains 200-250 plant species, and this coupled with the fact that this stretch of land is perhaps one of the very few places left where plant scientists have still not traversed the area. Even the forbidding Himalayas have been traversed more than this area.

The source of all animal life is plants. Of course, the carnivores-tigers, lions and so on-live only on the meat of other animals. But, these other animals again depend on plants for their sustenance. Therefore, the animal life of any place is dependent on the type and quality of the vegetation.

In many other parts of the world the whole land is covered only with a single particular season, while in winter nature sleeps and the animals and birds either hibernate or migrate to other parts. The Naga Country through not covering a very large area, is full of various types of plant species mixed intimately. Hence, any season of the animals and birds finds their food throughout the year leading to an infinite variety of fauna.

All life requires water for existence, and the soil, the topograpgy and rainfall over Naga Country contribute to a plentiful supply of water sources - one at least to every square kilometer of land. This factor also adds to the variety of birds and animals here. However, being mountainous, there are abundant, although the Shiloi Lake (10.4 ha) at the foot of the Saramati Mountain does attract migrating birds from Siberia on their way to lakes in Manipur and Burma. So far, some 80 different kinds of fish have been identified including a kind of mountain trout whose taste is matchless.

Crocodile is not found in Naga Country but the monitor lizard of dry land of river water are available. Of all the animals with lungs, the lizard is perhaps the most silent and soundless. But, a flying lizard in the Naga Country is so vocal that it could easily beat any Cicada in an Olympic of sound. Snakes that can glide are also found in Naga Country.

The varieties of spiders, worms, insects and bees in Naga Land are plentiful. There are three species of bees that yield honey and many varieties that are edible. Some of the cosliest foods of the Nagas are species of bees and wood-worm pupae. Pupae of a giant species of bee or a worm found in Oak trees cost Re. 1 - Rs. 2/- per larvae and are a delicacy only a few can affort to buy.

Of insect, perhaps none in nature are as stylish, and gaudy as the butterflies, Illegal exporters have long exploited the ignorance of the people and many rare and beautiful species of butterfly have found their way to the Universities and scientists of the outside world without mention being made to their being collected from Naga Country.

Hannibal, the famous general of History is said to have taken elephants up the Alps of Europe. There are instances where elephants do migrate across high mountain passes but the elephant is basically an animal of low elevation flat tropical lands. In the Naga Country in the heights of Dzuku, elephants are permanently found in elevations of 2500m. Dzuku area is perhaps the only place in the world where the rare mountain bird, Tragopan (Tragopan Blythic) and the tropical elephant live side by side in mountainous alpine conditions.

Since the days of Marco Polo, Western Civilization has tried to open the door to the rich East by system and the Gobi Desert China. Today this dreams has still not been realized because of the impassable jungle, leeches, insects, stinging nettles and poisonous plants. God's little acre is still virgin and undefiled in small Naga Country. Let it be preserved, else a new Heaven and new Earth will have to pass before it may be recreated.

Articles and contributions made by others does not reflect the stand of the Developers and the Designers.
Developed By Mr. B Koheni Moses.