A team of researchers from the State have reported the discovery of two new plant species from the Pooyamkutty-Adamalayar and Neriamangalam forest regions, highlighting the rich biodiversity of the Western Ghats and the need for a conservation strategy for the fragile ecosystem.
The team led by C.N. Sunil, Associate Professor, SNM College, Maliankara, chanced upon the new species during investigations conducted as part of a UGC-sponsored project on the flowering plants of Ernakulam district. The findings were published in the June 2015 issue of the international journal Webbia: Journal of Plant Taxonomy and Phytogeography.
An under shrub plant belonging to the mint family, Anisochilus shoolamudianus was found growing on steep wet rocks on Shoolamudy, the highest peak in Ernakulam district, deep inside the Edmalayalar forest range. The species was named after the place of collection. The investigators gave it a vernacular name “Vellithumpa” (silver flower) because of the white silvery hairs under the leaf. The plant bears small white flowers with red anthers in cylindrical closely packed clusters. According to M.G. Sanilkumar, Assistant Professor, SNM College, who was also part of the team, only four or five plants were observed in the area, possibly an indication that it is a very rare species.
A herbaceous plant belonging to the pipeworts family, Eriocaulon manoharanii was found growing in the wet rocky mountain grasslands of Mamalakandam-Munippara area in the Neriamangalam forest range. The plant has small white flowers growing in clusters. The patchy distribution of the plant is a scenic beauty in the valleys and grasslands. Dr. Sunil said the species was named after former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests T.M. Manoharan as a recognition of his contributions to biodiversity conservation and wildlife protection.
Dr. Sunil and his team had discovered four other plant species from the area over the last two years. “This points to the unmapped biodiversity in the region. It also indicates the need for a conservation strategy for the ecologically sensitive areas of the Western Ghats,” he says.