Article History

Received 19 August 2013
Received in revised form 27 August 2013
Accepted 30 August 2013
Available online 31 August 2013


Ethnobotany, Tribal communities, Boudh, Odisha, Traditional knowledge.

The plant wealth of Boudh district of Odisha, India with reference to Ethnobotany

C. R. Sahu*1, R.K.Nayak2 , N .K. Dhal3


*1. Department of Botany, Govt. college (Autonomous), Angul, Odisha-759143, India.

[E-mail id-; Tel:9437451585]


2. Department of Botany, J.K.B.K. Govt. college, Cuttack-753003, Odisha, India.

[E-mail id-]


3. CSIR, IMMT, Bhubaneswar – 751013, Odisha, India.

[E-mail id-]

Corresponding   Mob no:+91 9437451585


Ethnobotanical study was carried out in Boudh district of Odisha, India. Fifteen villages dominated by tribal communities under three community development blocks were selected. The indigenous knowledge of local traditional uses was collected through questionnaire and personal interviews during field trips. Indigenous communities of the region are largely dependent on plant resources such as medicines, food, fuel, fodder and for other livelihoods. A total of 20 traditional agricultural crop species, 8 traditional vegetable species and nearly 150 forest species were documented. Conservation of these valuable resources in its natural habitat would be an appropriate approach for ensuring food security of future generations.



The Boudh district of Odisha is one of the centres of diversity for many food crop plants and forest species and well known for its rich cultural diversity. Out of the Sixty-two tribal communities for the state, as many as 25 tribes are found in this district. They possess a high level of traditional knowledge in the various fields that governs their livelihood. For generations, they have played a great role in identifying, conserving, improving and utilizing local plant resources and sustain them as well. Besides rice, a variety of millets, pulses, oilseeds and vegetables, Boudh is also rich in forest wealth. The forest consists of many economically useful plants. The tribes depend on the adjoining forests to fulfil their requirements of food, fodder, firewood, fibre and medicines (Sharma et al., 1999).


The last two decades have witnessed a rapid decline in the genetic diversity of various crops and a depletion of forest species in the region (Nayar et al., 2009). High yielding varieties of different food crops are taken over traditional food crops. As a result of anthropogenic interferences, forest cover has come down to 26.34% of the geographic area, from 42% in last two decades. It is reported that very little work has been done in the ethno-botanical flora of the district. Some sporadic reports (Girach, 1992; Sahoo & Bahali, 2003; Sahoo & Mudgal, 1995; Subudhi & Choudhury, 1985; Sahu et al., 2007) from various sources are available.


Realizing the rapid loss of genetic and species diversity, a survey was made between 2011-2013 in 15 tribal villages of Boudh in a participatory mode to revive and conserve plant genetic resources for enhancement and sustainable utilization and for the food and economic security of tribal and rural communities.


Materials and methods

Fifteen tribal dominated villages of all three community development blocks were selected shown in above figure. The study team discussed about the plant uses with tribal communities residing in the villages. For each village a mixed focused group consisting of 10–15 knowledge holders was formed. A semi-structured questionnaire was developed to document ethno-botanical data. Field visits were arranged to collect and prepare herbaria of forest plants and to take photos of different plant parts for identification. The information collected was compared with published literature and recorded following standard guidelines (Haines 1921-25; Mooney 1950; Saxena and Brahmam 1994-96; Jain and Rao 1977). A separate meeting was arranged for the traditional healthcare practitioners, locally known as Disari, to document the various usages of medicinal plants. During analysis, data was arranged under three broad divisions.


Results and discussion

The team in the beginning interacted with nine tribal communities inhabiting in fifteen villages viz: Kondh, Kharia, Gond,  Kol, Munda, Mirdhas, Binjhal, Saora,Pentia belonging to Proto Australoid ethnic group and speaking Austro-Asiatic languages. The predominant    five tribes identified for data collection were Kondh, Gond, Saora, Kandha-Gauda and Munda.


Kondh villages are more homogeneous in nature. The villages are usually found near the forest or in the foothills. They speak a corrupt form of Odia, the language of Odisha. Settled agriculture is the main occupation, they practice shifting cultivation and go for hunting and food collection at times of acute scarcity. Paddy is the major crop followed by pulses, sugarcane and tobacco. They produce many different vegetables from their lands.


Gond, Saora, Kandha-Gauda and Munda, live in heterogeneous villages along with other neighbours. They speak different tribal dialects and adhere to their cultures. Agriculture is the principal source of livelihood, supplemented with the collection of wild forest foods. They grow millets, pulses and oilseeds on high lands as mixed crop. They are habituated to consuming country liquor made out of rice, finger millet, mahula (Madhuca indica Gmel), salpa (Caryota urens L.) and khajuri (Phoenix sylvestris (L.) Roxb.).


The data collected were categorized under three divisions: agricultural crops and varieties, forestry including horticulture, tree species and medicinal plants and forest species for explicit use. A total of 20 traditional agricultural crop species, 8 traditional vegetable species and nearly 150 forest species were recorded.


Agricultural crops and varieties

Tribal and rural farming communities have conserved a large number of traditional food crops for household food security. Impressive genetic diversity still exists in various species of cereals, millets, pulses and oil seeds. These are well adapted to various agro ecological conditions and socio economic set ups.


Boudh is famous for a range of diverse rice landraces of Asian cultivated rice (Oryza sativa L.). Tribal farmers from the surveyed villages claimed that these landraces possess good quality grains with better cooking, nutritive and milling qualities. Kondh, Gond & Saora farmers cultivate short, medium and long duration rice landraces under dry, semidry and wet systems of cultivation. Some of the varieties are linked with tribal culture, so many households conserve and cultivate them every year (Table 1).


Table 1 Landraces varieties


Name of landraces

Maturity period


Religious and Cultural functions

Para dhan


Red rice,used for flakes

Nuakhai festival, new harvest  eating



Slender scented rice suitable for payas/khiris

Marriage ceremony



Highly nutritive (for puffed rice)

Chaiti parab in tribal pockets



Moderate tasty

Celebration in Diwali parab



Slender long grain best for  biriyani and palau

worshipping Goddess Lakhsmi











Boudh is famous for minor millets. The tribal communities cultivate various millet species documented were Jav (Hordeum vulgare L.), ragi (Eleusine coracana (L.) Gaertn.), Maka(Zea mays L.), Kangu (Setaria italica (L.) P.Beauv.), Mandia (Eleucine coracana (L.)Gaertn.), Suan (Panicum sumatrense Roth. ex Roem et Schult.) and pearl millet (Pennisetum typhoides (Burm. f.) Stapf et C. E. Hubb.).


Common pulses were grown by the communities with millets and oil seeds under multiple cropping systems, some of them are: arhar (Cajanus cajan (L.) Huth.), blackgram (Vigna mungo L. (Hepper), (Vicia faba L) and bilo (Vigna adenantha G.F.W. Meyer).


All the five communities cultivate Niger (Guizotia abyssinica (L.f.) Cass.), extensively in hill tops, hill slopes and uplands in almost all the villages use as a substitute of castor. Tribal communities also grow khasa(Sesamum orientale L.), rai (Brassica napus L.), castor (Ricinus cummunis L.) plants as they use castor oil as hair and body oil.


The common vegetables grown by tribal communities mostly in their backyards are: tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. Gard.), saru (Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott), lau (Lagenaria siceraria (Molina) Standley), kunduri(Coccinea grandis (L.)Voigt.), kakharu (Cucurbita maxima Duch. ex Lam.), janhi (Luffa acutangula (L.) Roxb.), bhanda(Carica papaya L.),  kalara (Momordica charantia L.), desialu (Dioscoria alata L.), khada saga (Amaranthus gangeticus L.) and poi (Basella alba L.). They use vegetables mostly for day to day requirement, surplus vegetables are sold in the nearby local markets or dried and stored for scarcity days.


Forestry including horticulture, tree species and medicinal plants

Forests have been home for a wide range of plant species for food, fodder, fuel, wood, fibre, medicines. They collect seasonal forest produce to supplement food and income as they consider it their secondary occupation. It is assumed that ancestors of these tribal communities have identified a few forest species valuable for their multiple usage and they still make use of them to manage their daily life (Table 2). Tribal communities have identified and conserved enormous wild species for household consumption like wild edible tubers, green leaves, bamboo shoots, fruits and berries and fodder for livestock. During food deficit periods, the tribal livelihood depends largely on forest species for food to be consumed either raw or cooked.


Table 2  Forest  species  with multiple uses


Local names

Botanical names

Parts used



Anogeissus latifolia

Stem wood

Paper pulp in industry


(Roxb.ex DC.)


and charcoal


Dendrocalamus strictus

Culm,young shoots

Thatching, grain & seed


(Roxb.) Nees




Diospyros melanoxylon

Whole plant

Plough, insect repellant,




bidi making, edible


fruit, medicine


Haldinia cordifolia

Wood, fruits

Plough, hand hammer,




threshing, pounding,


edible  oil


Kydia calycina  Roxb.

Stem wood, bark

Paper industry and




Mangifera indica L.

Wood, twig,fruits,

Fire wood, food,



cultural and   religious




Schleichera oleosa

Fruit, timber, seed

Medicine, agricultural implements, massage




oil and toothbrush.


Shorea robusta Gaertn. f.

Wood, twigs, leaves

Plough, leveller, fire


& seeds

wood, Bidi making and




Terminalia chebula Retz.

Wood, fruits

Firewood, edible,




Woodfordia fruticosa


Firewood, fodder,








































The Kondh, Gond, Saora communities, familiar with the different species of wild edible tubers (Dioscorea spp.), depend largely during the monsoon, a food scarce period. The widely used species are Pit Kanda (D. oppositifolia L.), Sika Kanda (D. hamiltonii Hook. f.) and Cherenga Kanda (D. wallichi Hook.f.) very popular among communities for their sweet taste and large size.


Tribal women collect greens either from the nearby forests or from the vicinity of the agricultural fields. They include seasonal greens in their meal, plucked from the trees, herbs and shrubs (Table 3). Young bamboo shoots start sprouting from June to September, particularly tribal women could collect bamboo shoots by peeling off the shoot with a knife and make slices and chopped into small pieces for instant use as curry.


Wild fruits and berries contribute significantly to the food baskets of tribal communities (Table 4). The entire family gets engaged in the process of collection and marketing. Mango and Jackfruit are widely used across the tribes as they serve as a vegetable when raw as well as a fruit when ripened. Mango kernels and Jackfruit seeds help the tribal communities to get food during severe food shortage.


Table 3 List of wild and semi-wild edible

leaves used by tribal people

Local names

Botanical names

Wild edible leaves


Antidesma acidum Retz.

Bhui nimba

Andrographis paniculata


(Burm.f.)Wall. ex Nees


Butea monosperma(Lam.)




Bauhinia purpurea L.


Indigofera cassioides Rottl.


ex DC.


Paederia foetida L.


Pavetta crassicaulis Bremek.


Scindapsus officinalis (Roxb.) Schott.


Sterculia foetida L.

Semi-wild edible leaves


Alternanthera sessilis(L.)


R.Br. ex DC.


Amaranthus spinosus L.


Boerhavia diffusa L.


Chenopodium album L.


Commelina benghalensis L.


Hibiscus sabdariffa L.


Ipomoea aquatica Forssk.

Table 4 Seasonal fruits consumed by tribal



Local names

Botanical names

Summer fruits


Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam.


Bridelia retusa (l.) Spreng


Buchanania lanzan Spreng.


Careya arborea Roxb.


Carissa opaca Stapf ex Haines


Diospyros melanoxylon Roxb.


Mangifera indica L.


Manilkara zapota (L.)P.


Phoenix sylvestris (L.) Roxb.


Schleichera oleosa (Lour.)




Semecarpus anacardium L.f.


Syzygium cumini (L.) Skeels


Tamarindus indica L.

Winter fruits



Annona reticulata L.


Ficus racemosa L.


Mimusops elengi L.


Morus australis Poir.


Phyllanthus emblica L.


Ziziphus mauritiana Lam.


Ziziphus rugosa Lam.

































Collection of firewood for domestic purposes is routine work in interior tribal villages as commercial fuel is not affordable by the tribal communities. The whole family contributes labour in the process of collecting, storing and selling of firewood. The commonly used species are: Bija (Pterocarpus marsupium Roxb.), Sal (Shorea robusta Gaertn.f.),  Moi (Garuga pinnata Roxb.), Dhamana (Grewia tiliifolia Vahl.), Jamu (Syzygium cumini) (L.) Skeels, Mundi (Mitragyna parvifolia (Roxb.) Korth), Harida (Terminalia chebula Retz.), Bahada (Terminalia bellirica (Gaertn.) Roxb.), Kendu (Diospyros Melanoxylon Roxb.), Tangini (Xylia xylocarpa (Roxb.) Taub.), Dhatiki (Woodfordia fruticosa (L.) Kurz.),  Chakhunda (Samanea saman (Jacq.) Merr.) and Kuruma (Haldinia cordifolia (Roxb.) Ridsd.).


The tribal communities reconstruct their houses every year, as they live in mud houses with thatched roofs by using wood logs/tree trunks of certain species to make the skeletal structure of the house. The dominant species used are: Sal (Shorea robusta Gaertn.f.), Piasal (Pterocarpus marsupium Roxb.), Bandhana (Desmodium oojeinensis (Roxb.) Ohashi), Sahaj (Terminalia alata Heyne ex Roth) and Teak (Tectona grandis L.f.). They use split bamboo (Dendrocalamus strictus (Roxb.) Nees) in criss- cross patterns on the roof and spread straws of rice varieties to cover the roof. Ropes extracted from Siali (Bauhinia vahlii Wight et Arn.) are used for tying the bamboo together. Different uses of plants by inhabitants of study area in agriculture implements are mentioned in (Table-5).


Table 5 Uses of tree species for preparation of agricultural implements

Local names

Botanical names

Country plough



Desmodium oojeinensis (Roxb.) Ohashi


Diospyros melanoxylon Roxb.


Haldinia cordifolia (Roxb.) Ridsd.


Madhuca indica Gmel.


Schleichera oleosa (Lour.) Oken


Terminalia alata Heyne ex Roth.


Terminalia arjuna (Roxb. Ex DC.) Wight & Arn.




Butea monosperma (Lam.) Taub.


Desmodium oojeinensis (Roxb.) Ohashi


Grewia tilifolia Vahl.

Wooden hammers, drums,  leg & hand pounders for threshing millet


Schleichera oleosa (Lour.) Oken

Hand threshers for millets


Madhuca indica Gmel.


Each tribal community has its own Traditional Healthcare Practitioners (THP) coming down through generations, takes care of their health through herbal medicines. The tribals inherit rich traditional knowledge about the medicinal uses of flora and apply this knowledge for making crude phytomedicines to cure infections a number of ailments. They collect different parts of medicinal plants and herbs from the forest. THPs normally have traditional palm leaf books, locally known as Pothis, in which names of plant species, description of the plants, methods of formulations and doses are written. THPs use local names for the various plant species. Examples of some common but important herbs used in the villages are cited in (Table 6).


The study team collected informations on ethnoveterinary knowledge of common ailments and their remedies. Tribal people dump lots of Karada (Cleisanthus collinus (Roxb.) Benth.) fruits in a muddy place and make their cattle stand over the fruits to heal their sore feet. Maggots are the second most common disease prevalent among cattle. To treat it they grind the roots and leave of Mayurchulia (Elephantopus scaber L.) and the whole plant of Bano tulasi (Ocimum gratissimum L.) and apply it on the maggots. Leaves of Bamboo (Dendrocalamus strictus (Roxb.) Nees) are fed to the cattle having diarrhoea. The branches of Hadabhanga (Cissus quadrangula L.) are used to join fractured bones both in case of cattle and human beings. Leaves and inflorescence of Gayasa (Lucas aspera (Willd.) Link and branches of Landabaguli (Ocimum basilicum L.) are used to cure wounds in poultry by all the five communities.


Table 6  Ethnomedicinal plants used by the tribal communities for different diseases

Local names

Botanical names





Abutilon indicum (L.) Sweet

To treat epileptic fits


Argyreia nervosa(Burm.f.)Boj.

Cures paralysis


Hemidesmus indicus(L.) R.Br.

Treat migraine,fever &skin disorder


Mucuna pruriens (L.) DC.

Used as an antidote for snakebite.


Plumbago indica L.

Gynecological & rheumatism


Rauvolfia serpentine(L.) Benth.

Blood pressure & snake bite


Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal

Used to treat paralysis




Eclipta prostrata (L.) L.

Hair growth, dysentery &boil suppuration


Gymnema sylvestre (Retz.)R.Br.

Reduce blood sugar& cardiac disorder


Justicia adhatoda L.

Used to treat cough & asthma


Tylophora indica(Burm.f.)Merr.

Cures asthma

Roots & Leaves



Clerodendrum serratum(L.)Moon.

Nervous disorder and Malaria


Datura metel L.

To enhance lactation & cures scabies


Sida acuta Burm. f.

Used against indigestion & rheumatoid




Phyllanthus fraternus Webster

Cures both malaria & conjunctivitis




Nymphaea nouchali Willd.

Used to cure tumors


Trichosanthes tricuspidata Lour.

Cures cough & fevers, stomach pain &


treat epileptic pains




Cassia fistula L.

Used against diarrhoea & dog bite


Oroxylum indicum(L.)Vent.

Cures pain & leucoderma


Saraca asoca(Roxb.)de Wilde.

Gynecological disorder &bone fracture


Spondias pinnata (L.f.) Kurz.

Cures Tetanus


Nyctanthes arbour-tristis L.

Paste cures fever

Whole plant



Alstonia scholaris(L.) R.Br.

Cures fever & rheumatism

Bhui nimba

Andrographis paniculata

Cures Malaria and fever


(Burm.f.) Wall. ex Nees



Pterocarpus marsupium Roxb.

Cures jaundice & diabetes




Abrus precatorious L.

Used as an oral contraceptive


Barleria prionitis L.

Used for cold fever & whooping cough

Bhuin kakharu

Ipomoea mauritiana Jacq.

Cures abdominal tumors and profound


weakness in children.


Melia azedarach L.

Cures skin and bone TB

Leaf, root & fruits



Psoralia corylifolia L.

Used for Rheumatoid arthritis, Tetanus


and  worm infection.


Forest species for other uses

The tribes use the forest plant species used as tooth brushes documented are: Karanja (Pongamia pinnata) (L.) Pierre, Neem (Azadiracta indica L.), Sal (Shorea robusta Gaertn.f.), Dumajada (Jatropha gossypifolia L.), Sahada (Streblus asper Lour.), Sahaja (Terminalia alata Heyne ex Roth), Baunsa (Dendrocalamus strictus (Roxb.)Nees), Nirgundi (Vitex negundo L.) and Khajuri (Phoenix sylvestris (L.) Roxb.).


Tribal communities use different types of brooms such as  Phula jhadu (Thysanolaena maxima (Roxb.) Kuntze) and Khajuri jhadu (Phoenix sylvestris (L.) Roxb.)  used for sweeping floors of houses and Bajramuli (Sida cordata (Burm.f.) Borss. Waalk.), which is hard and rough, is used to clean cattle sheds every day.


A large number of fibre yielding plants grow in the forests of Boudh that include trees, shrubs and creepers of which Siali (Bauhinia vahlii Wight et Arn.) a wild creeper is highly preferred. It was documented that the Siali creepers live for hundreds of years and preserved as sacred groves. Siali fibres are mainly used to make ropes of different sizes, which have tremendous use in the daily life of tribal communities. The other forest fibre product plants are Kumbhi (Careya arborea Roxb.), Jhunka(Crotalaria spectabilis Roth.), Barabarasia (Agave americana L.) is also used extensively by the tribal communities.


People of all tribal communities consume country liquor daily as a part of their diet and on different social, religious and cultural functions. We have documented two tree species from which they collect the sap as liquor, Salpa (Caryota urens L.) and Khajuri (Phoenix sylvestris) (L.) Roxb. Tribal men and women have an innovative process of extracting liquor from the flowers of Mahula (Madhuca indica Gmel.). In addition to this, tribal women prepare alcohol from fermented rice and finger millet (Handia) to celebrate special functions.



From the investigation it was clear that tribal communities largely depend on traditional food crops and wild plant species to fulfil their requirement for food, agriculture, medicine and many other specific needs. Steady depletion of forest cover hinders food gathering from the wild. Documenting the indigenous knowledge through ethnobotanical studies is important for the conservation and utilization of biological resources. It is high time we take necessary steps to conserve the valuable resources in their natural habitat and to validate them scientifically. Conservation and sustainable use of these resources will lead to a path of sustainable agriculture and assured food security of the tribal communities.



We are thankful to the D.F.O. of  Nayagarh, Boudh and range officers, forest staffs for their co-operation and also acknowledge the help provided by the tribal communities and local people of Boudh district for sharing information and traditional knowledge.



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