The North-East India the richest reservoir of plant diversity in India and is one of the ‘biodiversity hotspots’ of the world supporting about 50 % of India’s biodiversity. Northeastern region occupy 7.7 % of total geographical area of country and harbours 50 % of Indian flora (8,000 species) of which about 4 % is endemic (2,526 species). The distinct tribes in the region have rich indigenous knowledge system on the use of components of biodiversity for their daily sustenance like food, fodder, shelter and healthcare. The region has several unique features such as fertile land, abundant water resources, evergreen dense forests of about 66%, high rainfall, and agriculture-friendly climate. Its unique phyto-geographical positions, topography and high degree of precipitation are some of the important factors which are mainly responsible for its enormous biological diversity.
As a result, an array of diverse plants are grown across the region ranging from tropical to alpine. A large number of diversity in fruits belonging to the genera Artocarpus, Annona, Averrhoa, Garcinia, Musa, Passiflora, Phyllanthus, etc. are reported from the region. Besides diverse vegetables particularly wild leafy vegetables, rare genotypes of cucurbits, solanaceous vegetables, chilli, ginger, turmeric, etc. are there with some unique quality because of their locational advantage. The region has a great ethno-cultural diversity with major and sub-tribes, which explains the wealth of traditional ecological knowledge among farmers. People of region have their ownculture, tradition and medicinal system of treatment and knowledge acquired through close observation of nature. Its ethnic people living in the remote forest areas still depend to a greater extent on the forest ecosystems for their livelihood They collect different medicinal plants and use them in traditional ways to cure their health related forms. The minor and wild fruits are mostly used to cure various gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory problems, cardiovascular compliance, muscular illness, bone diseases, gynaecological problem, cancers, snake bite, allergy and malaria etc. by local people of the region. This indigenous system of treatment based on such fruits is still an important part in social life and culture of the tribal people. However, this traditional knowledge of the local people has been transferred from generation to generation without proper technological interventions.
This paper will discuss the potentialities of underutilized plants ofNorth-East India.