Forests of three distinct areas exist in the state. These
are the forests of the north which include the mountain temperate forests
and the tropical forests of the Duars, the deciduous forests of the plateau
fringe and the mangrove forests of Sunderbans. Of these the northern
forests are the most important.
Forests of the Darjeeling Hills
These forests are related to altitude and aspect. Below 1000 metres there
are tropical evergreen forests. Above 1000 metres the effect of altitude
is definitely felt. Subtropical forests are found in between 1000
and 1500 metres. Terminalia, Cedrela, Michelia, Various laurels and Bamboos
are found in this belt.
Temperate forests are found from 1500 to 3000 metres.
They contain some varieties of oaks and conifers. Magnolia campbellii
and large rhododendrons tree are also found in this belt. Much of this
forest area has been cleared for tea gardens around Darjeeling and Kurseong.
Beech and birch are found in many areas. Conifers are found in slightly
higher situations. There are dense forests of deodars nearly all along
the Dow Hill ridge which continue up to Senchal, and clothe the entire
Tiger Hill. Birches are found all round Darjeeling. There are few
deodars on the Ghoom ridge, where oaks are more common. Due to the occurrence
of mists on the southern slopes, the trees are covered with mosses and
orchids. Many kinds of sweet temperate berries are also found in the undergrowth.
Magnolias and oaks occur around Kalimpong while conifers cover higher
slopes and peaks. Above 3000 metres, silver fir is very common. It is
common in the Singalila Range. Dwarf rhododendrons also occur here. Higher
up are Alpine meadows, smell bushes and flowering plants.
Tropical Mixed Evergreen Forests
of the Foot Hills
Some of the most dense forests of West Bengal occur in
the foothills of the Himalayas. Many of them are protected. They are generally
well managed and properly exploited. Much of this forest is moist deciduous
and here sal (shorea robusta) is the most common and valuable tree. Other
common tree associated with sal forests are Champa (Michelia Champaea)
and Chilauni (Schima Wallichii), Khair, Gamar and toon. Bamboo is also
found here. Vistas of tall grasses grow along the rivers. Evergreen
laurels and other moisture loving plants are found mixed up with the deciduous
A broad belt of these forests stretches along the entire
length of the northern districts. It is broader towards the east in the
Duars. Here low-level tea gardens have taken a heavy toll of the forests.
Corridors of these forests penetrate the hills along the river gorges
of Mechi, Balason, Mahanadi, Tista, Jaldhaka and many other smaller streams.
forest is very dense. There is much undergrowth of shrubs and bushes.
Orchids cling to the trees and giant creepers form a tangled mass of impenetrable
vegetation. Wild animals abound in the jungles which include the rare
one-horned Indian rhinoceros, the elephant and the Bengal tiger. Sanctuaries
have been provided for them at Mahananda, Gorumara (National Park), Chapramari,
Neora Valley (National Park), Jaldapara and Buxa (Tiger Reserve).
Soils of these forests are naturally rich in humus.
Along the river beds the soils are found in broad belts of sterile sands
and pebbles. At some places high banks of these gravels are found.