Researchers have come across a new plant species of the genus Ophiorrhiza, a group of plants valued for their medicinal uses, in the biodiversity-rich Western Ghats region.
Researchers spotted the new species from the Adichilthotty colony, near Malakkapara, in Thrissur district during a plant exploration trip. It has been named Ophiorrhiza sasidharaniana after Prof. A. Sasidharan, former Botany Department head of the University College, Thiruvananthapuram.
The journal Annales Botanici Fennici, brought out by the Finnish Zoological and Botanical Publishing Board, has published a paper on the discovery by researchers from the University of Kerala and the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI), Palode.
‘’Species of the genus Ophiorrhiza are considered economically important due to the presence of camptothecin (CPT), an indole alkaloid with anti-cancer properties. CPT is a naturally occurring pentacyclic tryptophan-derived quinoline alkaloid, exhibiting anti-cancer activity owing to its ability to inhibit the topoisomerase I (TopI) enzyme that is involved in DNA replication. Ophiorrhiza species are also used in remedies for ulcers, helminthiasis, snake poison, wounds, gastropathy, and leprosy,’‘ they said in a statement. Many Ophiorrhiza species also have ornamental potential.
Whether the new species displays medicinal properties is yet to be ascertained.
The paper in the Annales Botanici Fennici has been authored by Akhilesh S.V. Nair and A. Gangaprasad (professor and director, Centre for Biodiversity Conservation), Department of Botany, University of Kerala; and principal scientist Rameshkumar K.B., and senior technical officer E.S. Santhosh Kumar of JNTBGRI.
Ophiorrhiza (family Rubiaceae) has over 380 species, found mainly in wet tropical and subtropical forests of southeast Asia. India has 52 species, of which 21 species and seven varieties have been reported from the Western Ghats. Of this, 17 species and two varieties are endemic to the region.