Ethno Botany, Biogeography ,Chemical Profiling and Pests Of Ensete Superbum : An Endangered Medicinal Plant of India

Ensete superbum Roxb. Cheesman (Cliff Banana) is a rare medicinal plant, endemic to the Western Ghats, the Aravalli range and northeastern hills of India. Different parts of the plant are used to treat wide range of human diseases like appendicitis, cancer, diabetes, dog bite, dysuria, kidney stone, leucoderma, leucorrhoea, measles, stomach ache and venereal diseases. In view of the immense ethnic medicinal importance of the Ensete superbum, we have compiled the available information reported on its ornamental potential, status, threat and ethno botanical uses using Geographical Information System to generate interest among the scientific community to conserve E. superbum and protect associated traditional knowledge from biopiracy.

Genetic variability in phenotypic characters of Ensete superbum: In India, the Genus Ensete is being neglected because of their scanty and scattered distribution; presently it is gaining importance due to medicinal properties reported by various ethno botanical workers. Studies on genetic variation and locational influence on seed polymorphism in general may help us to compare the population and to select superior ecotype on the basis of secondary metabolite content for future breeding purpose. The essence of natural variation involves all the differences that can be observed or measured between living things. For effective utilization of natural variation, the genetic and environmental components are first and foremost to be seen. Ensete produces a large quantity of seeds per bunches yet fails to exhibit natural regeneration due to hard impermeable seed coat Seeds produced by ensete, vary in respect of colour, size and weight on the basis of location. Seed polymorphism is of selective advantage to plant to adopt an unpredictable fluctuating environment and also to maintain its population in nature through natural selection. Seed polymorphism in respect to size, weight and colour which occurs with in and between plants has not been reported for Ensete superbum. The present work is executed on various sites of Western Ghats to study the genetic variability with respect to phenotypic characters of Ensete superbum.


Comparison of cultivated and wild plants of E. superbum: A study has conducted to compare the morphological variations of E. superbum grown in gardens and those found in natural habitats. Significant variations in quantitative character were observed in vegetative and reproductive characters of the both plant types. The massive growth of E. superbum was uniformly observed in all populations under garden conditions. Severe moisture and nutrients stress faced by wild type manifest as lower accumulation of biomass. Seeds of cultivated type get aborted and appear with an undeveloped embryo or hollow seeds and do not germinate. While the seed of wild types appears bold with hard seed coat and germinate successfully.

The present study reports first time the comparative morphological variation on growth habit of wild and cultivated type of cliff banana. Study revealed that cultivated and wild type plants of E. superbum differ in most of the characters observed. Inclusion of E. superbum in plants list of Schedule VII - The Wild Life Protection Act of India by imposing a total ban on the collection and trade of plants and seeds from natural habitats to conserve the relict wild populations.

Chemical Profiling of seeds: Systematic pharmacognostical evaluation of seeds of the plant has been carried out with focus on its macroscopy, microscopy, physicochemical and phytochemical characterisation.

Macroscopical and microscopical features of the seed have been documented. Preliminary phytochemical investigations indicated presence of steroid, terpenoids, alkaloids, flavanoids, tannins and sugars. HPTLC fingerprint profile was developed for identification of the extract using reference standard.

These parameters can be utilized for quick identification of the drug and are useful in establishing the identity of this medicinal material as whole or even in the form of powder.


First report of spit bug infestation on E. superbum: Large population of bug feeding on aerial parts of wild growing E.superbum, immediately after the rainy seasons of the year 2010-2012 at Kottiyur and kulathupuzha region of Kerala state, India. Both nymph and adults suck sap from young leaves. Severely infested leaves turns yellow and develops black spots to gradually dries up. Although little is known about E.superbum, it is identified as a RET medicinal plant. Authors believe that this is the first report of spit bug (Phymatostetha deschampsi Lethierry) infestation on E.superbum.

Ensete superbum is a rare and less studied medicinal plant endemic to Western Ghats, India. The E. superbum is distributed naturally in different types of rocky outcrops (Table 7.1) and found growing luxorisly under wild conditions in Rhyolite, Basalt, Granite gneiss and Khondalite type rocks in different parts of India. Seed, seedlings and leaves of E. superbum are traded frequently in different parts of India for medicinal and ornamental purposes. The present study reports the identification of suitable habitat for conservation. Rocky outcrops within the Western Ghats of Kerala were identified using ISRO’s Bhuvan, the Indian Earth Observation Visualization Facility. The thematic map layer of wasteland at 1:50,000 scale for the state of Kerala during the year 2008-2009 were utilized for the identification of barren rocky areas . Using the geowebfacility, the above thematic layer was integrated to Quantum GIS for further spatial analysis. A point vector layer of suitable rocky areas was created out of the coordinates captured. Later, the rock types of the identified sites were collected from the Geodata Division, State Unit Kerala, Geological Survey of India. A total of 23 suitable conservation sites were identified using Bhuvan. Geophytic and plasticitic nature of E. superbum helps the species to adopt better in Rocky out crop and thus need minimum attention. The identified sites are the potential sites for the conservation of E. superbum. Planting E. superbum in barren rocky outcrops will help improve the fragile marginal land ecosystem and socio-economic upliftment of ethnic communities residing in forests