Natural Vegetation of India

What is natural vegetation of India?

Natural Vegetation of India

Natural vegetation of India is perfectly in tune with its relief and climatic conditions. The natural vegetation of India has a long history as many species of trees have migrated from one place to another due to tectonic and geologic reasons. Since India presents a greater varsity of physiographic and climatic conditions, it has an equally varied vegetation. Precipitation and temperature are the major determining factors for the distribution of natural vegetation in the country. The whole of Indian vegetation can be classified into five major categories.

Tropical Evergreen or Rain Forest Type

Natural Vegetation of India

Tropical evergreen forests are mainly found in the areas recording over 150 cm of average annual rainfall where the temperature varies between 25°C to 27°C. North-East India, parts of Western Ghats, the Andaman and Nicobar, upper Assam, lower slopes of Eastern Himalayas, Odisha, along the foot-hills of Himalayas, Bhabhar and Tarai regions. Wherever the average annual rainfall is more than 250 cm, these forests are dense and composed of tall trees (45 m) epiphytes, parasites, lianas and rattans. Because of this they appear like a green carpet when viewed from above.

Trees of tropical evergreen forests have multi-storeyed structures with good canopies. These trees do not shed their leaves annually and are hence evergreen. Thus they are not deciduous. The floor lacks grasses because of deep shade (sunlight cannot reach the ground). There are, however, canes, palms, bamboos, ferns, and climbers which make passage difficult. The important species of these forests are white cedar, toon, dhup, palaquinum, mesua, collophyllum, hopea, and canes, gurjan, chaplas agor, muli, and bamboo. Due to poor accessibility these forests have not been properly exploited.

These are further subdivided into three categories on the basis of rainfall:

1. Tropical Wet Evergreen Forest

These are well developed in areas receiving more than 240 cm of rainfall and a short dry season. Stripe along the Sahyadris up to 1370 meter, the hilly regions of North-east India, the Tarai region of eastern Himalaya and the Andaman and Nicobar islands have evergreen forests. Very dense forests having three storeyed appearance , composed of  tall and medium sized trees and shrubs . Rosewood, Eboni, Ironwood and Paan are important trees. Toon, Sisso, Gurjan , Champa and Telsur are other important trees.

2. The Tropical Semi-Evergreen Forest

In areas of 200 cm of rainfall, found along the margins of wet evergreen forest.

3. Tropical Moist-Deciduous Forest

These are typical monsoon forest found in the areas of Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats , Chhotanagpur plateau , M.P. and the Bhabar and Tarai regions of the Himalaya receiving 100-200 cm. Rainfall. Open forests, Sal , Teak and Sandalwood are trees of economic importance. Here teak and sal are the dominant species. The tropical moist deciduous forests are found in Sahyadris, the north-eastern parts of the peninsula and along the foothills of the Himalayas.

These forests on the whole have gregarious species. The typical landscape consists of tall teak trees with sal, bamboos, and shrubs growing fairly close together to form thickets. Both teak and sal are economically important and so are the Sandalwood Shisham, Hurra and Khair.

Dry tropical Types

Natural Vegetation of India

Occurs in areas of 75-125 cm of rainfall and subdivided into three types.

1. Tropical Dry Deciduous

Biotic variation of moist deciduous forests degenerating on the drier side into thorny forests , occurs over large areas of Sahyadris. Teak, Tendu, Sal , Palm , Laural , Khair are important trees. These forests are characterized by closed and rather uneven canopies. Enough light reaches the ground to permit the growth of grasses and climbers. Acacia, jamun, modesta, and pistacia are the main trees. Grasses and shrubs appear during the season of general rains.

2. The Tropical Dry Evergreen Forests

They are confined to the coastal areas of Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu, because these areas receive 100 cm of rainfall mostly during winter season through North-east monsoon. Neem, Tamarind, Palm , Casuarina, are important trees.

3. Tropical Thorn Forest

Occurs in low rainfall ( less than 75 cm) regions of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Stunted trees like Accasia are common with scrubs and xerophytic bushes in the drier side. Such forests also occur in the interior regions of peninsula having rain-shadow effect of western Ghats.

Montane Vegetation of India

Montane vegetation of India can be broadly divided into 2 categories – Himalayan Vegetation and Peninsular Vegetation

Himalayan Vegetation

Himalayan Vegetation

 The Himalayan vegetation is further classified as Tropical, Temperate and Alpine mainly  on the basis of altitude and rainfall.

1. Tropical Evergreen Montane Forest

Tropical evergreen montane forest in confined to the humid foothills of eastern and central Himalayas upto  a height of 1500 metre. Ironwood, oak, chestnut bamboos etc are found in these forests. In the western Himalayas rainfall decreases and evergreen forest give way to tropical deciduous forests , where the valuable timber tree sal is the dominant species.

2. Temperate Montane Forests

Temperate montane forests are formed at altitudes between 1500-3500 meter containing conifers and broad leaved temperate trees. These forests are found in the entire Himalayas from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh between the altitudes of 1500 m to 3500 m where the temperature varies between 12°C to 15°C, and the mean annual rainfall is between 100 to 250 cm. Oak, fir, spruce picea, deodar, magnolia , chestnut, cedar and maple, spruce, deodar, silver-fir , kail and yew are found here. These forests also contain scrubs, creepers, and ferns. The woods of these forests are durable. At higher altitudes above 3500 m, are the alpine pastures known as Margs in Kashmir and Bugyals in Uttarkhand. Pine is the dominant species at 920-1640 meter altitude. Deolar, a highly valued species  grows mainly  in the western part of the Himalayan range upto 2700 meter.

3. Alpine Montane Vegetation

The alpine zone beings above the tree line at on altitude of 3200-3500 metre, extending upto 3900 metre in the western Himalayan. Juniper, Rhodudendron, mosses and  lichen are typical vegetation. These areas are characterised with short dwarf conifers and lush green nutritious grasses during the summer season. The trees found in the zone are kail, spruce, yew, firs, birch, honeysuckle, artemesia, potentilla, and small scrubs

Peninsular Montane Vegetation

 The subtropical forest occur on the lower slopes of Sahyadris and in Satpura and Maikal range . At higher levels the temperature is lower but rainfall is higher, therefore temperate forests are  denser and called as Sholas in the Nilgiri, Annamalai, and Palani hills. Mangolia, Laurel, Rhodudendron, Eucalyptus, Chinchona are found in this forest.

Tidal Forest


In the tide washed coast dense mangrove forests flourish with peculiar edaphic adaptations. The seaward fringes and island of the deltas of the Ganga, Mahanadi, Krishna and Godavari are belt of dense tidal forest. The great sundarbans is a typical example, inhabited by sundari trees. Their main concentration is found in areas where tides are frequent. Some mangroves attain a height up to 30 meters and are the most important trees commercially. It is utilized for fuel. At Sundarbans higher grounds support screw pines. Palms occupy creeks, and epiphytes are predominant all over the region.

Desert Vegetation

The desert vegetation is confined to the west of Aravallis in the states of Rajasthan and northern part in Gujarat. The average annual rainfall in this area is less than 50 cm, the diurnal and annual range of temperature are high. Acacia, cacti, jhar and khejra, kanju, and wild palms are the main trees of the desert.

Natural Vegetation of India UPSC

Natural vegetation of India UPSC preparation has to be tackled in a systematic manner otherwise a candidate would end up loosing a lot of time in studying unnecessary things. In both prelims and mains questions from natural vegetation of India are asked on a regular basis. In mains also questions on this topic are asked. But to tackle a mains answer, pure knowledge is not enough. For this an answer writing skill is also required in which the placement of right keywords at right places is very important.

Natural Vegetation of India UPSC Prelims Questions

If you travel through the Himalayas, you are likely to see which of the following plants naturally growing there? (2014)

1. Oak

2. Rhododendron

3. Sandalwood

Select the correct answer using the code given below

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer (d)

In the grasslands, trees do not replace the grasses as a part of an ecological succession because
(a) insects and fungi
(b) limited sunlight and paucity of nutrients
(c) water limits and fire
(d) None of the above

Answer (c)

Which of the following leaf modifications occurs/occur in desert areas to inhibit water loss?


1. Hard and waxy leaves

2. Tiny leaves or no leaves

3. Thorns instead of leaves

Select the correct answer using the codes given below.

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1,2 and 3

Answer (d)

“Climate is extreme, rainfall is scanty and the people used to be nomadic herders.” The above statement best describes which of the following regions? (2013)

(a) African Savannah

(b) Central Asian Steppe

(c) North American Prairie

(d) Siberian Tundra

Answer (b)

Which of the following is/are unique characteristic/characteristics of equatorial forests?
1. Presence of tall, closely set trees with crowns forming a continuous canopy
2. Coexistence of a large number of species
3. Presence of numerous varieties of epiphytes
Select the correct answer using the codes given below:
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 1.2 and 3

Answer (d)

See Also

Indian Climate

The Indian Geography

Indian Drainage System

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