Southern reaches of Western Ghats yield 3 new plant species

 thehindu.com  05/23/2020 12:40:15 

A team of scientists of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) have reported the discovery of three new plant species from the evergreen forest patches of the southern end of the Western Ghats in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Also read: New plant species spotted

The three new species  Eugenia sphaerocarpa of the Myrtaceae or Rose apple family; Goniothalamus sericeus of the Annonaceae family of custard apple and Memecylon nervosum of the Melastomataceae (Kayamboo or Kaasavu in local parlance) family  were discovered during a recent exploration led by BSI scientist K.A. Sujana.

Edible fruits

A good population of Eugenia sphaerocarpa is growing in the Kakkayam area of the Malabar wildlife sanctuary in Kerala above 800 m. The specific epithet sphaerocarpa denotes to the large, showy lemon-yellow spherical fruits Dr. Sujana told The Hindu. The fruits of Eugenia species are known for their palatability and many of them are harvested from the wild with some under cultivation.

A small number of Goniothalamus sericeus plants has been found in the Kanyakumari wildlife sanctuary in Tamil Nadu. The plants were found at an altitude of 1400 m and the team recorded 50 saplings and 10 flowering plants within an area of 1 square kilometre.

Mature flowers with characteristic greenish-yellow to beige petals are fragrant while the fruits are very showy and an attractive golden yellow in colour. The specific epithet sericeus refers to the presence of dense silky hair on the petals, Dr. Sujana explained.

A small population of Memecylon nervosum was also found at the same sanctuary at an altitude between 700-900 m with more that than 10 sub-populations located along the banks of a perennial rivulet, Ragesh G. Vadhyar, one of the researchers involved in the study, said.

Exotic flowers

The species has showy purplish-blue flowers and mauve to purplish red fruits. The specic epithet nervosum alludes to the presence of prominently raised lateral and intramarginal veins on the lower surface of the lamina, Mr. Vadhyar said.

As these species are small trees or shrubs, a more detailed botanical exploration of the Western Ghats is crucial to document them, Dr. Sujana said.

Changes in climate, forest fires and poor seed settings mean these plants have a limited distribution that narrows their range to the southern parts of Western Ghats, she said.

While the discovery of Eugenia sphaerocarpa was published in the recent edition of Phytotaxa, an international journal of Plant taxonomy from Auckland, New Zealand, the discovery of Goniothalamus sericeus was published in the latest issue of the International Journal of Biodiversity from Taipei in Taiwan. The discovery on Memecylon nervosum was published in the Edinburgh Journal of Botany from Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, UK.

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