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Wayanad, hot spot of rare flora, shows up 3 new species

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RICH BIODIVERSITY: Oberonia swaminathanii, belonging to the orchid family, is one of the three new species.
RICH BIODIVERSITY: Oberonia swaminathanii, belonging to the orchid family, is one of the three new species.

E.M. Manoj

KALPETTA (Kerala): Wayanad district, a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, is a hot spot of rare flora in Kerala.

A study conducted by scientists of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) at Puthurvayal, near here, identified 2,034 flowering plants, including three new species — Miliusa wayanadica and Miliusa gokhalae, belonging to the Annonaceae family (custard apple family) and Oberonia swaminathanii of the orchid family.

Two rare and endangered species, considered ‘possibly extinct,’ — Eugenia argentea and Hedyotis wyanadensis — were collected after 130 years. According to the study, 587 endemic species of plants and 175 orchids enriched the biodiversity of the district.

Ratheesh Narayanan, senior scientist, conducted the study under the direction of N. Anil Kumar, Director, MSSRF, and M. Sivadas, formerly Professor of Botany, Calicut University.

Dr. Narayanan told The Hindu on Thursday that the study identified 2,034 flowering plants of the total 4,321 reported in the State. Wayanad district has the largest number of flowering plants in Kerala.

Biodiversity, especially of orchids, was higher in Wayanad than in any other region of the State. As many as 108 species of orchids were identified in the Silent Valley region, he said.

Oberonia swaminathanii is the new species belonging to the orchid family that was identified during the study. The plant was found in the Kurichiar Mala reserve forest area of the Kalpetta range.

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