New plant found in Tumakuru takes the district’s name

B. tumakurense comes from a tuber and belongs to the Apocynaceae family of flowering plants

August 18, 2021 11:49 pm | Updated 11:49 pm IST - Bengaluru

Brachystelma tumakurense  is a new species of orchids endemic to Tumakuru.

Brachystelma tumakurense is a new species of orchids endemic to Tumakuru.

A new plant of the Brachystelma R.Br. species has been found in Tumakuru, and has been named after the district from where its type material was collected. ‘B. tumakurense’ comes from a tuber and belongs to the Apocynaceae family (a family of flowering plants).

The findings were published recently in ‘RHEEDEA Journal of the Indian Association for Angiosperm Taxonomy’ by Gundappa B.V. from the Wildlife Aware Nature Club, Tumakuru; Sringeswara A.N. and Vishwanath S. from the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), GKVK Campus – Bengaluru; and P. Venu from the Environment Protection Training and Research Institute – Hyderabad.

According to the paper, Brachystelma R.Br. is the second largest genus in the tribe Ceropegieae with over 116 species distributed in the old-world tropics. They are slender stemmed with a brilliant display of colours in their flowers, especially in their corolla and coronal structures.

“They are mainly distributed in Peninsular India in dry hill ranges. There are seven species from Karnataka. All of them exhibit erect stems and are non-climbing in nature. During explorations in Devarayanadurga (Tumakuru district, Karnataka) material of Brachystelma was collected. It was found in flowering while bearing leaves and primarily comparable with B. bourneae Gamble, B. maculatum Hook.f. and B. rangacharii Gamble, but is distinctive in certain features and hence described here as a new species,” the paper said.

Flowering, fruiting

The flowering season is from June to July and fruiting from August to September, and about 16 to 18 individuals in one population were found growing among grasses in a southern moist mixed forest, the scientists said, adding that the plants were distinctly visible as the grasses had not attained their usual height owing to low rainfall in 2017.

“In fact, a few plants were found lacking the upper portions most likely due to browsing by wild animals. Usually, the browsed plants branch out from the node below and flower,” the paper added.

Dr. Sringeswara from the Mahatma Gandhi Botanical Garden, UAS, told The Hindu the species is a lesser known plant and has pollens similar to orchids. “We found the plant in 2017 and studied it and found that it is not similar to any known plant. It is a tuber from which a plant comes out around May-end. After one or two and a half months, by August-end, it dries up, but the tuber remains for a year. The tubers may be eaten by animals and men, as it has an edible property,” he explained.

Having found insects feeding on the flowers, the experts plan to study the floral biology next year.

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