Two new species of ginger found from northeast

Discovery by Malabar Botanical Garden and Institute of Plant Sciences researchers

December 29, 2020 11:24 am | Updated 11:24 am IST - Thiruvananthapuram

The Mahabharatha epic describes Bhima, the second among the five pandava brothers, going in search of the Kalyanasaugandhika , a flower with a heavenly fragrance, to satisfy Panchali’s desire. Scientists have deduced that the mythological plant described by Vyasa is Hedychium coronarium, also known as white ginger lily.

Now researchers from the Malabar Botanical Garden and Institute of Plant Sciences, Kozhikode, have discovered a close relative of Hedychium coronarium from the northeastern region.

It was during a floristic expedition in the eastern Himalayas that the team comprising of M. Sabu and V.S. Hareesh came across the new species Hedychium mechukanum from a location at Quing and Tato near the Mechuka valley in Shi-Yomi district, Arunachal Pradesh, at an altitude of 1,400 m.

Pleasant fragrance

The species has large white flowers with a pleasant fragrance. It was found to be largely similar to other plants of the Hedychium genus found in northeast India and China, but different in several attributes.

The discovery was published in Gardens Bulletin , Singapore. The paper notes that the plant grows in open areas of evergreen forests. Flowering is from mid-June to September and fruiting from September to November. The species was named after the small town Mechuka bordering China.

The area from where the specimens were collected was under threat from road-widening. The scientists observed that Hedychium mechukanum could be widespread in the region. They have assessed the species as Data Deficient under the IUCN guidelines.

The second new species named Amomum arunachalense was collected from Nirjuli in Papum Pare district, Arunachal Pradesh, by V.S. Hareesh and M. Sabu from Malabar Botanical Garden and Dipankar Borah from the Rajiv Gandhi University, Itanagar. As many as 11 species of the Amomum genus are distributed in the northeastern and southern regions of India and the Andaman and Nicobar islands.

Distinguishing features

The new species is distinguished from others in the genus mainly by a white rhizome with a pale brown centre.

The scientists have reported the discovery in the December 8 issue of Annals Botanici Fennici , a research journal published from Helsinki. The authors collected 20 specimens of the plant from moist, sloping locations along streams. They have noted that deforestation and extraction of shoots for medicinal purposes are major threats to the species.

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