IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

The Himalayan trillium or Nagchatri


Context: The Himalayan trillium (Trillium govanianum), a common herb of the Himalayas declared ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

  • In recent years, the plant has become one of the most traded commercial plants of the Himalayan region, due to its high medicinal quality.
  • It has been used in traditional medicine to cure diseases like dysentery, wounds, skin boils, inflammation, sepsis, as well as menstrual and sexual disorders.
  • Recent experiments have shown that the rhizome of the herb is a source of steroidal saponins and can be used as an anti-cancer and anti-aging agent. This increased its market value and has now become an easy target for poachers.
  • Found in temperate and sub-alpine zones of the Himalayas, at an altitude from 2,400-4,000 metres above sea level, the existence of the plant has been traced across India, Bhutan, Nepal, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • In India, it is found in four states only- Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, and Uttarakhand.
  • Often called Nagchatri, in local areas this herb grows to a height of 15-20 cm.
  • Given the suspected rate of decline and an expected continued demand for rhizomes into the foreseeable future, population declines of at least 50% are expected to occur between 2010 and 2079.

  • Factors threatening its survival are:
    • Over-exploitation, long life cycle - slow to reach reproductive maturity - and poor capacity for seed dispersal.
    • Highly specific habitat requirement, high trade value, and increasing market demand are all causing its decline.
  • The researchers note that in 2017, the herb was recorded as a medicinal plant traded from India. Since then its price has increased and sold at $50-315 per kilogram.
  • To prevent its illegal trade, “Implementation and enforcement of sustainable collection protocols and quotas are needed.
  • Designation of areas of natural habitat to local communities for management of harvest is the best option to control its illegal trade.
  • Further, the implantation of FairWild Standard (a set of ecological and fair trade guidelines) can help traders, and concerned agencies in the sustainable harvest and trade of the species.”
  • Educational efforts including elevation of public awareness surrounding the threats to the species, and dissemination of best practices for harvest are also needed.