Gallery Story

The gardens and plantings within the DNA landscapes showcase a wide range of attributes exhibited from divergent populations of the same species for study. What is more, their proximity to one another helps them exchange and reproduce a wider array of alleles useful to the recruitment of successive generations by building resilience into the germplasm. One way to offset the damage caused by forest fragmentation is to collect and encourage evolution by bringing the genetic diversity of life together once again. This convergence we make convenient for the love of life. The result has its own charm, nothing less than a heartfelt experience of our species' birthplace that promotes human health and happiness, with an aim to inspire the urban youth. [Please view the Slideshow.] Most of the landscapes are kept, as much as possible, in a wild condition and the animals love it that way. As the nation's forests become more difficult for individuals to explore and enjoy in depth for multiple reasons, the DNA offers a wild felt home for the soul to enjoy without the worry of large animals such as tigers, leopards or bears. We are developing a series of small bases along the pathways for the convenience of researchers.
Dharmavana Nature Ark - DNA - Gardens Dharmavana Nature Ark - DNA - Gardens Dharmavana Nature Ark - DNA - Gardens Dharmavana Nature Ark - DNA - Gardens Dharmavana Nature Ark - DNA - Gardens Dharmavana Nature Ark - DNA - Gardens Dharmavana Nature Ark - DNA - Gardens Dharmavana Nature Ark - DNA - Gardens Dharmavana Nature Ark - Native Flora Dharmavana Nature Ark - Native Flora Dharmavana Nature Ark - Native Flora Dharmavana Nature Ark - DNA - Gardens Dharmavana Nature Ark - DNA - Gardens
As seen in the pictures below, Neem is our most invasive species. Due to extensive Neem plantations decades ago in the surrounding villages, birds drop the seeds during their visits into the Ark. Neem so easily germinates in the Ark's most accommodating groundcover where the seeds find just what they need to grow. If not for the removal of hundreds of seedlings each year (amounting to many thousands over the decades) we would be nothing but a forest dominated by huge Neem trees. Lantana, as seen mixed in amongst the Neem, is our second most invasive species, and we have made good progress with its removal. Both of these species have serious implications for the ecological integrity of India's (sub)tropical dryland zones, and their removal is actually a line item in our DNA budget.
Dharmavana Nature Ark - DNA - Gardens Dharmavana Nature Ark - DNA - Gardens Dharmavana Nature Ark - DNA - Gardens

A few years ago, we built a wall of just over 7 km all along our borders which keeps out neighbouring bush fires that had been a great worry over the years. This tall wall itself provides many important microhabitats for certain kinds of flora and fauna that require partial shade and more soil moisture than open conditions allow. The wild animals inside the DNA are kept safe from bushmeat hunters as well as feral cats, dogs and pigs not to mention habitat loss from livestock. Years ago, hunters would come into the DNA and purposefully set fires to chase out animals to catch. No more. Remarkable gains in biodiversity are seen all over the terrain as a direct consequence of the protection afforded to all manner of life thriving now, as never before, throughout the herbaceous undergrowth, grasslands, and rich forest floor year on year. It used to burn up most years as is the case, sadly, with many jungles where more frequent 'wild' fires are starting earlier in the year than before burning flowers and seeds alike complicating our efforts to collect viable seeds for the DNA. The pictures below show the destruction (development) ongoing in our immediate neighbourhood.
Without the pressures of livestock and fires that had been regularly set, hundreds of Boswellia saplings are on the rebound totalling thousands throughout the entire DNA land. We have not cultivated this species. This wild population produces good, viable seed suitable to the most tough semi‑arid conditions. All nearby forest reserves and shrublands have no further record of this species locally.

In 2011, we had a fire that scorched nearly 70% of the DNA landscape. We learned a lot in those couple of days. Tough lessons. During the following year, we put in place a variety of fire control measures that have prevented any repeat of that event. Now, our 12‑foot high border wall is doing a great job of preventing most, if not nearly all, embers of outside ground fires from entering. This gives us the precious time needed to respond with equipment to the appropriate location on our side of the wall to prevent fires.

Over the years, we have made hundreds of tons of mulch and compost from collecting discarded coconuts and tree trimmings along Hyderabad's roadsides. All this has contributed essential biomass to help revive our degraded soils that were severly deficient of organic matter. We also recycle the discarded rubble of brick kilns and old village buildings.
To help the rarest flora gain a foothold and thrive, we mix biochar into the soil at the bottom of the pit. We make biochar from cut branches, coconuts and bamboo. Here's to healthy soil microflora!
Dharmavana Nature Ark - Gallery - Biomass
Dharmavana Nature Ark - Gallery - Biomass
Dharmavana Nature Ark - Gallery - Biomass Dharmavana Nature Ark - Gallery - Biomass
Dharmavana Nature Ark - Mission - Our team at work on the DNA land.
How we move it all around!
Vermicompost - While very useful to the immediate needs of agriculture, we prefer to mix 'raw' organic matter into the soil as food for the microbiota. Healthy soil is only as good as its web of life. This approach provides a steady release of nutrients to roots and promotes moisture retention more suitable to the DNA's silviculture orientation. Organic matter (food) combined with biochar (shelter) is a powerful combination for optimising the microflora communities that vitalise soil and support the many species of fungi around which much of a healthy ecosystem prospers.

Having enough water year round is a major concern. We have utilised dozens of techniques such as contour trenching, swales, soak & bore pits as well as underground water rooms all over the land to retain rainwater, redistribute runoff, and promote sub-surface water flow, percolation & groundwater recharge. Our greatest challenge is to enhance soil moisture retention since the water table is out of reach for most of our plants. Pictured below are some old fashioned approaches we use to store over 22,00,000 litres to save for the non‑rainy days. Other rainwater is collected across our 20 monsoonal ponds and more than 40 year-round watering holes that serve the wildlife. Check dams are located in many places.

One of the reasons we selected this land was due to a fifty acre area wherein a variety of over 20 naturally growing tree species such as Givotia moluccana, Dalbergia latifolia and Boswellia serrata were trying to grow. Though severely suppressed from decades of firewood collection and livestock grazing, these former stubs have since grown into trees along with a few planted saplings of trees typical to the Deccan. A core area of forty acres has been left alone. Now, many saplings have gained years of growth in the absense of bush fires that had been regularly set alight by goatherders and shepherds to grow fresh fodder. We have named this section of the DNA as the "Deccan Jungle" wherein the native flora is naturally regenerating. Since acquiring this land in 2005, we have left this 50-acre area as is except to remove a few invasive species from gaining a further foothold. An additional nine acres serve as a buffer zone between the "Deccan Jungle" and the rest of the landscape that is planted with woody species from other dry jungles outside the Deccan.

Overall, we have planted species that are vastly underrepresented or absent in reforestation/afforestation projects or in public park and roadside plantations due to their rarity, slow growth, deciduous nature, required microhabitats, spines, toxic foliage or fruits, or other 'undesirable' traits such as being "ugly" or difficult to propagate. Over the years, we have noticed a decline in the quality and viability of jungle seed largely due to a host of anthropogenic stressors that we are able to mitigate, if not reverse, within the DNA to produce better quality seed. Some of this has to do with crippled populations of pollinators due to ecosystem imbalances.
We do not use drip irrigation. In a good year, we receive about 850 mm or more of rainfall mostly during the monsoon from June to October. A few years have been as low as 550 mm. To help establish seedlings and young saplings, we water them as needed during their first couple of years. For the most part, we practice 'tough love' which makes for a slow start but promotes better root & stem development for the plants' long‑term stability in the tough, semi‑arid conditions of the DNA.
Dharmavana Nature Ark - Native Flora Dharmavana Nature Ark - Native Flora Dharmavana Nature Ark - Native Flora Dharmavana Nature Ark - Native Flora Dharmavana Nature Ark - Native Flora Dharmavana Nature Ark - Native Flora
Conserving over 850 species of native, woody flora, their infraspecific taxa and races with more on the way!

Today, the landscape features a thick turf of over 44 grass species as the soil rebounds from decades of overgrazing by livestock (goats, cattle and buffalo). Many other deep rooted species of herbaceous plants have nearly halted erosion and created a vigorous rhizosphere. We are constantly at work on restoring and fortifying the soil microbiome throughout the lands. Robust populations of everything from earthworms to lightning bugs (not to mention termites) are gaining ground.
The same DNA landscape
      May 2007
 May 2023

On 13 Oct. 2020, the heaviest October rains of a century flooded our seven acre NurseryLand. Many seedlings washed away. Since 2003, this nursery has been dedicated to growing plants exclusively for the DNA's botanical gardens, arboretum, and heritage woodlands. Measures are underway to mitigate and fortify against any future occurrences. The flood filled our nursery pond to the brim. We should have a good supply of water for the next 18‑24 months.
Species of the Day    List 
Commiphora caudata Faunal Database of over 500 species living in the Dharmavana.
Commiphora caudata    more