The research areas of Botany group are Taxonomy, Floristics, Plant Biodiversity, Ethnobotany and Medico Botany. It covers mainly the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, Goa, and to some extent other states in India.
Taxonomic studies in the Group have lead to monographic publications, research articles on specific families like Acanthaceae, Caesalpiniaceae, Cyperaceae, Eriocaulaceae, Fabaceae, Palmae and Podostemaceae. Monographic works entitled "Palms of India - vol. I" by Prof. T.S. Mahabale and "Palynological studies on family Acanthaceae" by P.D. Chaubal and G.B. Deodikar are worth mentioning contributions from the Group. At present the work on Palms is being conducted with special reference to Fossil materials and several publications establishing new genera, new species have been made from this study.
Floristic studies were initiated along two lines. The first has resulted in preparing the regional floras of interesting localities like Gomantak, Karnala and Kanakeshwar and local hills like Pachgaon Parvati, Vetalhill areas. The second line has covered floristic studies of aquatic plants, exotic plants, arboreal plants palynology and bee botany. Floristic studies on Sacred Groves constitute the unique contribution of the department. It is recognized as the pioneering work in this field in India. Floristic account of more than 400 sacred groves from western Maharashtra was taken under the DOEn sponsored Project. It also revealed socio-economic and environmental value of sacred groves for which they become `Hot-spots' for conservation.
Ethnobotany, a recent branch of economic botany dealing with relationship between human societies and forests, was tackled for detailed studies on tribes, regions and different utility groups. So far studies on tribe Mahadeo Koli, region Karnala and plant groups like wild edible plants and medicinal plants have been completed. These studies covered botanical aspects of over 250 edible species, 590 medicinal species and 400 ethnobotanically useful plants.
Herbarium, housing more than 25,000 specimens, has been developed through various research projects conducted in the department. It has been recognized internationally in 1985 under the acronym of AHMA after Late Prof Agharkar. Specimens documenting ethnobotanical information and collections on monographic works is the speciality of this Herbarium. It is commonly being referred by various researchers and students of plant science for species identification.
Taking into consideration the need of time, recently the department has initiated work in two distinct areas, viz., the biodiversity conservation and medicobotany. Under the area of biodiversity conservation, studies on natural variability of under- exploited economic tree\shrub species such as Carissa, the commercially important medicinal plant group of Bruhat-panchmula have been initiated. Work on conservation of rare endemic trees was done under DOEn Scheme. Vegetative propagation of selected species under different sets of conditions is being done in nursery using mist chamber. As a part of extension work of the nursery material, experimental species have been transplanted to permanent material, experimental species have been transplanted to permanent plantation sites at the College of Military Engineering, Dapodi and in Ganesh Nagar area, Pune; Susala island; schools in different villages; schools and colleges in and around the Pune.
Regional diversity in socio-economic tree species Neem, medicinal herb Aloeindustrially useful herb Asparagus is being investigated under the medicobotany programme. Evaluation of folk-claims and standardization of herbal drugs have been initiated in the laboratory. Species like: Jatropha curcus, Azadirachta indica, Sterculia foetida, etc. are being assessed for the anti-inflammatory, anti-diarrhoeal and hepato-protective activities using animal models.
Taking into consideration the expertise developed, the group offers following services :
Standardization of herbal drugs, collection and evaluation of diversity in socio-economic species, diversity among the commercially useful medico-botanical species, analytical studies on laboratory scale and palaeo-floristic investigations are envisaged as further plans.