Madhavan Parameswaran Nayar (27 January 1932-9 December 2016)



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Rheedea

Vol. 26(2)

174–176

2 0 1 6

ISSN: 0971 - 2313

Obituary

Madhavan Parameswaran Nayar (27 January 1932–9 December 2016)

Dr. Madhavan Parameswaran Nayar who was 

popularly known as M.P. Nayar among the 

plant science fraternity, passed away on the 

morning of 9th December 2016 at his residence 

in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. He was 84 

and survived by his wife Mrs. Lakshmi Nayar, 

daughter Mrs. Sandhya Ganapathy, son-in-law 

Mr.  M.A.  Ganapathy, IPS, and grandson Mr. 

Nikhil. He was not keeping well in the last few 

months after the stroke he had in July this year. By 

his sad demise Indian botany lost an outstanding 

taxonomist of international repute. Dr. Nayar 

will be greatly remembered for his remarkable 

contributions that enriched the plant taxonomy, 

phytogeography and conservation biology in 

India and Southeast Asia through his dedicated 

research nearly for six decades.

Dr. M.P. Nayar was born on 27th January 1932 

at Nagercoil in the erstwhile princely state of 

Travancore, now part of Tamil Nadu. He had 

his primary and intermediate education at his 

hometown and later joined the prestigious 

University College at Thiruvananthapuram to 

pursue his graduate and postgraduate studies. He 

was a bright student and secured his B.Sc. degree 

in Botany and Chemistry (as main subjects) in 1951 

and M.Sc. in Botany in 1955 from the University of 

Kerala, both with a First Class and First Rank.

Since his school days, Dr. Nayar had developed a 

deep interest in observing plants and associated 

fauna in the wilderness around his school and 

hometown. As a student, he used to spend 

his pocket money for plant explorations. He 

collected plants even from the inaccessible areas in 

Agasthyamalai, which is known as a rich haven for 

many rare and interesting species. His passionate 

interest in plant science led him to take up an active 

career of 32 years long in the Botanical Survey of 

India (BSI), ultimately becoming its director.

Dr. Nayar started his professional career on 20th 

March  1957 as a Scientific Assistant at the Southern 

Circle, BSI in Coimbatore. He worked there for 8 

to 10 months and initiated the work on Flora of 

Courtallum. Sooner, within one year in 1958, he 

was appointed as a Systematic Botanist at BSI, 

Kolkata. During his early career, Dr. Nayar was 

fortunate to have the guidance of such eminent 

professors and mentors, Prof. Narayana Aiyar 

(then Professor of Botany, University College, 

Thiruvananthapuram), Prof. P. Maheswari (then 

Professor of Botany, University of Delhi) and Dr. K. 

Subramanyam (then Director of Botanical Survey 

of India). The inspiring interactions with such 

stalwarts motivated an young and enthustastic 

Dr. Nayar to take up phytogeography, phyto-

sociology and plant conservation as active areas 

of his research. He conducted a detailed study on 

the vegetation of Kanyakumari during 1954–1956, 

and the results of this study formed the content of 

his very first research article, titled ‘The vegetation 

of Kanyakumari, Kanyakumari district’ (Bull. Bot. 

Surv. India

 1: 122–126. 1959).



 175

Indian Region 

Vol. 1 Peninsular India (1986); The 



Poppies of Indian Region (Papaveraceae) 

(1986); 


Red Data Book of Indian Plants

 (1988, 1989, 1990, 3 

volumes); Hot Spots of Endemic Plants of India, Nepal 

and Bhutan

 (1996); Agrobiodiversity hotspots in India: 



Conservation and Benefit Sharing

 (2009, 2 volumes).

After his superannuation on 31st January 1990, 

Dr. Nayar joined first as Emeritus Scientist of 

the Botanical Survey of India at the Tropical 

Botanic Garden and Research Institute (TBGRI), 

Thiruvananthapuram. He was nominated to the 

prestigious Pitamber Pant National Environment 

Fellow of the Government of India in 1994. After 

completing the fellowship, he took up the Chair 

in Taxonomy in the Centre of Excellence scheme 

at TBGRI from 1997 to 2000. He received the 

Santapau Gold Medal in Taxonomy, instituted by 

The Association of Plant Taxonomy in 2005. During 

1991–2015, Dr. Nayar also served as the President 

of the Environmental Resources Research Centre 

(ERRC), Thiruvananthapuram, where, he and his 

students and colleagues successfully executed 

several projects funded by the Government of 

India, including “Reproductive and conservation 

biology of Malabar Gamboge”; and “Biodiversity 

conservation and management of Sasthamkotta 

Freshwater lake”.

During his official career as representative of the 

Government of India, Dr. Nayar visited U.S.S.R., 

China, U.S., UK, the Netherlands, Canada, France 

and Germany. He was the leader of the Indian team 

on Plant Working Group at Tuscon (U.S.), Member 

of the Indian Delegation to IUCN (Madrid) in 

1984, Member of the Indian Scientific Delegation to 

U.S.S.R. (1988), Member of the Indian delegation to 

the International Botanical Congress at Edinburgh 

(1984) and at Berlin (1987). He chaired the Indian 

Subcontinent Plant Specialist Group of Species 

Survival Commission of IUCN during 1984–1987.

Dr. Nayar was an elected Fellow of the Indian 

National Science Academy, Indian Botanical 

Society and Indian Association for Angiosperm 

Taxonomy. He served as chairman and member 

of several important national committees, 

international delegations, governing bodies and 

research councils of R & D Institutions.

Dr. Nayar was commemorated by botanical 

community by naming several plants in his honour: 

Genus:  Nayariophyton T.K. Paul; and new species 

such as: Bothriochloa parameswaranii Sreek., Malathi 

& V.J. Nair, Bridelia nayarii P. Basu, Elymus nayarii 

Karthik.,  Gomphostemma nayarii A.S. Chauhan, 



Hiptage nayarii 

R.C. Srivast., Maesa nayarii G.S. 

Giri & S.K. Das, Oberonia nayarii R. Ansari & N.P. 

In 1961, Dr. Nayar was deputed to work as the 

Liaison Botanist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, 

Kew, UK. For six years, from 1961 to 1967, he 

zealously worked at the Kew Herbarium, where 

he had the good fortune to work with great 

botanists and taxonomists, Dr. John Hutchinson, 

Sir George Taylor, Dr. C.E. Hubbard, Dr. N.L. 

Bor, and Dr. R.E. Holttum. The legacy of these 

dedicated professionals and their contributions to 

enriching botany, especially systematic botany, had 

greatly influenced Dr. Nayar’s perspectives and 

his research pursuits. At Kew, he monographed 

different genera of Melastomataceae for Southeast 

Asia under the supervision of Dr. G. Taylor, for 

which he was awarded a Ph.D. degree by the 

University of London in 1966. He described 3 

new genera (Neodriessenia, Pseudodissochaeta and 



Tayloriophyton

), 98 new species and many new 

varieties of Melastomataceae.

Dr. Nayar returned to India in 1967 and took up 

the assignment as Keeper of the Central National 

Herbarium (CAL), Howrah. The rich experience 

he gained at the Kew Herbarium helped Dr. 

Nayar to reorganize CAL, both structurally and 

functionally. In 1977, he took up the post of Deputy 

Director of BSI at the Western Circle, Pune, and 

surveyed the plants of northern Western Ghats, 

especially Mahabaleshwar. In 1979, he again 

moved to Kolkata to serve as Deputy Director up 

to 1982, and later as Joint Director from 1982 to 

1984, and finally as Director of BSI during 1984–

1990. During this period he laid the foundation 

for the Flora of India series: State Flora and 

National Flora. He along with his students and 

colleagues revised the following plant families 

for the Flora of India: Aceraceae, Pittosporaceae, 

Papaveraceae, Malvaceae, Bombacaceae, Rutaceae, 

Lardizabalaceae, Lythraceae and Sabiaceae. He 

guided 15 students for their Ph.D. degree. As 

a Director, Dr. Nayar successfully steered the 

Botanical Survey of India on a growth curve with 

large number of publications on endangered 

species, ecology of wetlands, ethnobotanical and 

geobotanical studies. Besides the Melastomataceae, 

Dr. Nayar and his colleagues described over 15 

novelties in other plant families.

Dr. Nayar authored and published 25 books and 

about 250 scientific papers. Some of the noteworthy 

and well-referred books, authored or coauthored/

coedited by him, are: Meaning of Indian Flowering 



Plant Names

 (1985); Key Works to the Taxonomy of 



Flowering Plants of India

 (1984–1986, 5 volumes); 



Network of Botanic Gardens 

(1987); Economic Plants 



of India

 (1989, 2 volumes); Mangroves in India: 



Identification Manual 

(1989); Endemic Plants of the 



176 

we spent hours discussing botany, our families, 

friends and colleaugues.

Like me, many others who closely knew Dr. Nayar 

would admire his fine humane qualities. Dr. Nayar 

was articulate in expressing his scientific ideas, 

and findings with precision. He was a versatile 

personality and could discuss of wide ranging 

topics such as Indian culture, history and science 

administration in India. To his friends Dr. Nayar 

has always been trustworthy and helpful, while all 

his students and colleagues benefited greatly from 

his staunch support and guidance.

Throughout his eventful botanical career, spanned 

almost 60 years, Dr. Nayar upheld highest ideals 

and morale. He will ever be rembered for his 

marvelous research contributions. May his noble 

soul rest in peace.

K.N. Nair

NBRI, Lucknow

Balakr.,  Osbeckia nayarii G.S. Giri, Rhododendron 

nayarii 

G.D. Pal, Saxifraga nayarii Wadhwa, Sonerila 



nayariana 

Murug. & V. Balas., Spiraea nayarii K.M. 

Purohit & Panigrahi, Stixis nayarii Sundararagh., 

Syzygium

  parameswaranii M. Mohanan & A.N. 

Henry,  Utricularia nayarii Janarth. & A.N. Henry 

and Vernonia nayarii Uniyal.

I was fortunate to have a long association with Dr. 

Nayar for the last 30 years. My association with 

him started with my joining the Botanical Survey 

of India in Kolkata as a research scholar in May 

1986 and worked on the Taxonomy of Indian 

Rutaceae under his supervision. The teacher 

– student relation of ours grew further when 

both of us got another chance to work at TBGRI 

in Thiruvananthapuram during 1992–2001. We 

maintained regular contacts even after I left TBGRI 

in July 2001 to take up my present job at the CSIR – 

National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow. I 

met him last at his residence in Febraury 2016 and 

Dr. M.P. Nayar inaugurating training programme in plant taxonomy held at Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and 



Research Institute, Thiruvananthapuram


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