The first botanical exploration in Manipur was made by G. Watt, who was deputed as a Botanist member of Boundary Commission of 1881-2 set up by British Government, since then the flora of this state attracted the attention of many western explorers like Clarke, Kaith, Kingdon ward etc. from time to time. The noteworthy publication or the floristic account of Manipur state is by D.B. Deb, 1961. (1575 dicots + 438 monocots) followed by Mukherjee, Jain & Shukla, Rao & Verma etc.
Cymbidium aloifolium (Linn.) Swartz
But non of these studies have given a comprehensive detailed account of the state flora and only checklist of plants of Manipur have been provided until the publication of “Flora of Manipur”, Volume-I, Ranunculaceae-Asteraceae, by the B.S.I., 2000. Now, the state harbours over 3,000 species of higher plants and contribute important source of germplasm.
The Manipur state also harbours a good number of primitive flowering plants. As many as 41 primitive flowering plants under 11 families and 75 species of endemic plants have been listed so far.
Manipur has a rich genepool of primitive cultivars and land races. There are enormous genepool of rice (269 varieties), maize and coix etc. There are also numerous wild relatives of cultivated plants. Mention may be made of Alpinia, Alocasia, Amomum, Mucuna, Payrus, Prunus & Rubus etc. The genus Dioscorea is represented by 8 species and Piper with 21 species. Wild species of banana like Ensete glaucum, Musa cheesmanii, M. magnesium, M. balbisiana etc. have been recorded from this state. The genus Citrus is represented by Citrus indica, C. latipes, C. maxima, C. medica and other varieties etc. Fiber crops like Bauhinia, Butea, Cannabis, Corchorus, Crotalaria, Sesania, Side and their varieties are common in this state.
The state of Manipur has a large population of bamboo. Out of 126 taxa of bamboos reported from India over 53 species are from Manipur. Many epiphytic and terrestrial orchids of immense horticultural value are grown in wild. About 249 species belonging to 69 genera of the familyOrchidaceae have been reported from this state. Venda coerulea (Blue venda) and Rananthera imschootiana (Red venda) are included in schedule VI (plants) of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (Amended, 1991). Due to overexploitation most of the orchids have already been depleted considerably and several are seen only in orchidaria.
The wealth of medicinal plants is an important asset in the flora of a state. As many as 1200 species of medicinal plants are reported by S.C. Sinha (1996) and the local medicinal uses of about 430 speices have been noted. Clerodendron siphonanthus and Texus baccata are rare medicinal plants found in Manipur.
Gymnosperm of Manipur was reported by Sharma & Singh (1992) and identified over 20 species of endemic and exotic taxa. Important plants from conservation point of view are Gnetum montanum, Gnetum gnemon, Podocarpus spicatus and Ginkgo biloba.
Pteridophytic flora of Manipur also shows a great diversity. More than 300 species of Pteridophytes are collected. A few plants like Cyathea gigantean (Tree fern). Isoetes debii (Quilwort) Lycopodium phragmites (Clubmoss) and Platycerium alcicorna (Stag’s horn fern) need an immediate measure of conservation.
Manipur has a record of existence of more than 121 algae, 50 species of fleshy fungi and a few Moses. Algae like Lamanea australis ad fungi like Ustilago consimilis, Ustilago esculenta an Vulvariella esculanta are some of the rare species.