A herbaceous climber, named Ceropegia manoharii for its beautiful flowers, has been discovered by botanists.

The species with a very narrow distribution was spotted in the Meppadi Hill ranges of Wayanad. A research team comprising scientists from the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, Thrissur, and the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Wayanad, located 44 mature individuals in the montane grasslands of Meppadi Forest Range.

Plants were found mostly growing in inaccessible spots marked by steep cliffs and sharp rocky cuttings, said the research paper on the species published in the Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, U.S.

P. Sujanapal and N. Sasidharan of the institute and P.M. Salim and N. Anil Kumar of the foundation were part of the research team.

The plants were found at an altitude between 1,500 metre and 1,850 metre above sea level. So far, the plant is known only from South Wayanad, it said.

The epithet ‘manoharii’ was derived from a Malayalam word ‘manoharam’ meaning beautiful. The flowers of the new species qualify for the name with its green and white petals and its elegance. The flowering and fruiting season of the species is between August and February, said Dr. Sujanapal.

Most of the species of Ceropegia in the Wayanad region are habitat-specific with a narrow distribution range and are highly vulnerable. Among the three Ceropegia species found in Western Ghats, the species decaisneana was listed in the vulnerable category of the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the paper said.

Species ciliata and manoharii are very rare and facing a higher threat than the red-listed species due to various anthropogenic and environmental factors.

The conservation status assessment of the plant species will have to be carried out, research finding said.

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