Kas Plateau – Nature’s spectacle of flowers

The monsoon is essential for life in India. Animals, humans, and plants all depend on the rains to survive. With this amazing natural occurrence, India blooms to life. One of the best places to witness the magic of the monsoon and its power is Kas Plateau or Kas Pathar. Located in Maharashtra, it falls in the Sahyadri Sub Cluster of the Western Ghats which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is 25 km away from Satara. In the rainy season from June to September, millions of wildflowers begin to bloom at Kas. Many of these flowers are endemic and threatened. Kas has a very rich bio-diversity with more than 1500 species of plants and some 33 species which are only found in the Kas region.

The Kas plateau is made up of porous laterite rock and a thin layer of soil i.e. it has a high iron content and because of this, the soil has a reddish colour. The thin layer of soil supports the plants after the rains. During the peak of the flowering season, you can see carpets of flowers as far as the eye can see. The flowering changes every 15 days and you can see Kas covered with different coloured carpets after these time intervals.

Scientific Name: Reinwardtia indica | Common Name: Yellow Flax | Local Name: Piwli Abai

The flowers start appearing even before you reach the Kas plateau. Some flowers grow only on the slopes of hills and hence, these flowers do not grow on the plateau. The Yellow Flax or Piwli Abai is one such flower which is found on the way to Kas.

Scientific Name: Persicaria glabra | Common Name: Common Marsh Buckwheat | Local Name: Sheral

These flowers can be seen on the slopes leading up to the Kas plateau

Scientific Name: Thunbergia fragrans | Common Name: Sweet Clock Vine | Local Name: Chimine

This beautiful vine flower is quite common on the road to Kas

Scientific Name: Impatiens balsamina | Common Name: Rose Balsam | Local Name: Terda

Another flower found in plentiful numbers in the Kas region

Scientific Name: Strobilanthes callosus | Common and Local Name: Karvy

These plants can be seen on hillsides and slopes leading to Kas. The flowers bloom only once in 7 years.

Scientific Name: Aponogeton satarensis | Common Name: Satara Aponogeton| Local Name: Y-Tura

A specialty of the Satara region of Maharashtra, the Aponogeton satarensis plant is Endangered and endemic specifically to this region. It grows in pools formed by monsoon water. Its Y shape flower gives it its local name of Y-Tura.

Scientific Name: Habenaria Grandifloriformis | Common Name: Single Leaved Habenaria | Local Name: Ashadh Habe-amri

One of the first flowers to bloom with the onset of the annual monsoon in India, this orchid has a single heart-shaped leaf lying flat on the ground.

Scientific Name: Habenaria heyneana | Common Name: Toothbrush Orchid | Local Name: Kangwa Habe-amri

This unique looking orchid is commonly named as Toothbrush Orchid after its toothbrush-like appearance

Scientific Name: Habenaria panchganiensis | Common Name: Panchgani Habenaria | Local Name: Panchgani Habe-amri

Named after Panchgani where it was first found, these orchids have a pleasant odour.

Scientific Name: Habenaria brachyphylla | Common Name: Thick Leaved Habenaria | Local Name: Dopatri Habe-amri

A rare orchid seen at Kas plateau

Scientific Name: Habenaria rariflora | Common Name: Spreading Flowered Habenaria | Local Name: Chire Habe-amri

Another rare orchid seen at Kas plateau. This flower has a pleasant odour.

Scientific Name: Impatiens dalzellii | Common Name: Dalzell’s Yellow Balsam | Local Name: Pivla Terda

Cloud creating mist on the Kas plateau

Carpet of Smithia hirsuta

Carpet of Impatiens lawii

Carpet of Pogostemon deccanensis and Eriocaulon sharmae

Scientific Name: Ceropegia vincaefolia | Common Name: Forest Flytrap | Local Name: Kandil Kharchudi

This flower is a flytrap. The flower arrangement is such that the opening at the top allows certain insects inside the flower. Once inside, the insect will get trapped in the long tube-part of the flower. When pollination has been completed, the insect is released by the flower.

Open and unopened flowers of Ceropegia vincaefolia

Scientific Name: Ceropegia jainii | Common Name: Jaini Ceropegia | Local Name: Jaini Kharchudi

Being part of the Ceropegia family, this flower is also an insect trapper. The purpose is to ensure pollination. The insect will enter the flower and be trapped within the flower until pollination is complete. Then, it will be released by the flower. Seen here are the open flower with 5 petals connected at the top and a few opened flowers.

Scientific Name: Ceropegia media | Common Name: Medium Ceropegia | Local Name: Medi Kharchudi

Being part of the Ceropegia family, this plant also traps insects in the tuberous part of its flower for the purpose of pollination and then releases the insect once the pollens have been covered on the insect.

Scientific Name: Curcuma caulina | Common Name: Indian Arrowroot | Local Name: Chavar

The Indian Arrowroot is found quite commonly on the Kas plateau

Scientific Name: Adenoon indicum | Common Name: Blue Sonki | Local Name: Motha Sonki

Scientific Name: Senecio bombayensis | Common Name: Graham’s Groundsel | Local Name: Sonki

These pretty yellow flowers grow in abundance on the Kas plateau as well in the surrounding region

Scientific Name: Murdannia lanuginosa | Common Name: Marsh Dewflower | Local Name: Abolima

Scientific Name: Pleocaulus ritchei | Common Name: Mal Karvy | Local Name: Topli Karvi

These flowers bloom once every 7 years

The Pleocaulus ritchei plant is shaped like an inverted basket, due to which it gets the local name of Topli Karvi. Topli in Marathi means basket.

Scientific Name: Pinda concanensis | Common Name: Konkan Pinda | Local Name: Pand

This unique flower consists of small individual flowers grouped together to form a bigger flower.

Scientific Name: Vigna vexillata | Common Name: Zombi Pea | Local Name: Halunda (Elephant’s Trunk)

This curious looking flower is called Elephant’s Trunk because of one of its petals being shaped like the trunk of an elephant. A very unique flower that can be found commonly in the Kas region.

Scientific Name: Flemingia gracilis | Common Name: Slender Flemingia | Local Name: Jartari

Scientific Name: Murdannia simplex | Common Name: Large Dewflower | Local Name: Nilima

Commonly seen on the Kas plateau

Scientific Name: Dipcadi ursulae | Common Name: Ursula’s Dipcadi

The Dipcadi is commonly seen on the Kas plateau. Because of the tall height of the plant, it rises above the landscape. In this species of Dipcadi, the bracts are long pointed and much longer than the flower stalks.

Scientific Name: Cyanotis tuberosa | Common Name: Greater Cats Ears | Local Name: Abhali

Insects on the flower doing pollination

Scientific Name: Nymphoides indica | Common Name: Water Snowflake | Local Name: Kumudini

Scientific Name: Nymphoides indica | Common Name: Water Snowflake | Local Name: Kumudini

Blanket of Nymphoides indica covering the pond in white

Scientific Name: Rotala ritchiei | Local Name: Paner

This Endangered plant grows in shallow fresh waters and can be found in very few places

Scientific Name: Rotheca serrata | Common Name: Blue Fountain Bush | Local Name: Bharangi

Scientific Name: Striga gesnerioides | Common Name: Purple Witchweed | Local Name: Bambaku

This plant grows on rocky slopes and has pinkish-red leaves which also act as flower bracts

Scientific Name: Utricularia purpurascens | Common Name: Purple Bladderwort | Local Name: Seetechi Aswe

With the low nutrition content in the soil at Kas, plants have to adapt accordingly. Hence, a few carnivorous and insectivorous plants are found here. One of these is the Purple Bladderwort. This is a carnivorous herb found in fresh water and wet soil operating with bladder-like traps. The traps are located beneath the soil and will trigger if small organisms brush against its hairs, thereby trapping the organism inside the bladder and closing the trap door.

Scientific Name: Drosera burmannii | Common Name: Burmann’s Sundew | Local Name: Davbindu

An insectivorous plant, the Drosera burmannii catches insects for food. This plant is spread out flat on the ground. The flower of this plant rises up on a long slender stalk. The sticky tentacles will trap any insects landing on the leaves, thus trapping them. The leaves then curl up the insects to get necessary nutrition from them to make up for the lack of nutrients in the soil. A flying insect caught on the sticky tentacles of the right-side leaf can be seen here.

Kas Plateau

Scientific Name: Drosera indica | Common Name: Indian Sundew | Local Name: Gavati Davbindu

Another insectivorous plant. The red tipped tentacles are sticky like glue and will stick to any insects landing on the plant, thus trapping them. The branches curl up the insect and the plant gets necessary nutrition from the insect to make up for the lack of nutrients in the soil. A complex web of tentacles of multiple Drosera indica plants can be seen here. Any insect passing through this web is sure to be caught and consumed by one of the plants.

Kas Plateau is one of the gems on earth with some of the rarest and largest number of plant species found nowhere else on earth. This place needs to be well conserved as a haven for millions of these threatened plants. However, sadly, not all people understand the value of this place.

There are multiple unwanted incidents happening due to some people such as –

  • Crushing hundreds of plants to get a glimpse or an image of a particular plant or flower
  • Destroying plants to get selfies and treating the plateau like a photo-shoot location
  • Plucking flowers
  • Taking entire plants/vines home for their gardens
  • Sitting and walking on the flowerbeds
  • Treating the plateau like a picnic spot and also leaving behind garbage and plastic

Due to such pressures coming from thousands of people, the already fragile ecosystem deteriorates. These plants might not be as glamorous as the Tiger or the Lion, but they are just as critical in the ecosystem. Once lost, they will be gone forever. If everyone respects this special place, there is no reason why Kas cannot continue to amaze us with all its spectacular flowers. It is our responsibility to conserve Kas.