New species of carnivorous plant found in Kerala

It is named botanist M. Kamarudeen Kunju who campaigned for Myristica swamps

Published - June 05, 2020 07:57 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

A new species of Utricularia — carnivorous plants popularly called bladderworts — discovered by chance in the paddy fields of Kottayam has been named after a botanist and teacher who campaigned to save the biodiversity-rich Myristica swamps in rural Thiruvananthapuram.

The slender aquatic plant, which sports a trap for snapping up tiny prey, has been christened Utricularia kamarudeenii in honour of M. Kamarudeen Kunju, a former reader at the Botany Department, University of Kerala, Karyavattom, who passed away in 2019.

The serendipitous discovery was made during a field exploration that was part of the PhD programme on amaranthus by S. Arya of University College, Thiruvananthapuram. The research team led by V.S. Anil Kumar, head, Department of Botany, Government College, Kasaragod, also included Vishnu Walsan K. of Regional Cancer Centre, and P. Biju of Government College, Kasaragod.

The latest edition of Phytotaxa , an international journal on plant taxonomy, has published the finding.

In paddy fields

Belonging to the family Lentibulariaceae, the genus Utricularia features over 200 taxonomically distinct species. Around 24 are found in Kerala. The floating Utricularia kamarudeenii was found in patches in about 20 paddy fields and connected waterlogged areas in Kottayam district, Ms. Arya said.

“One characteristic that sets apart Utricularia kamarudeenii from its cousins is its bilobed corolla. Its trap is also quite small, adequate to catch very small organisms. The seeds are hexagonal in shape,” she said.

A highly respected teacher and environmentalist, Dr. Kamarudeen Kunju had been in the forefront of a struggle launched by the people of biodiversity-rich Peringamala against a waste-treatment plant proposed in the locality. He passed away in November, 2019, aged 48.

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