New species of Sun Rose found in the Eastern Ghats

Portulaca laljii discovered growing on rocky crevices in Andhra Pradesh’s Prakasam district

Published - December 26, 2020 06:04 pm IST - Kolkata:

Botanists have discovered a new species of wild Sun Rose from the Eastern Ghats in India. The new species, named Portulaca laljii , discovered from Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh has unique features such as a tuberous root, no hair in its leaf axils, a reddish pink flower, prolate-shaped fruits, and copper brown seeds without lustre. These morphological features distinguish the species from other species of genus Portulaca.

The details of the discovery have been published in the Journal of Asia Pacific Biodiversity in an article titled “A new species of the genus Portulaca L. (Portulacaceae) from the Eastern Ghats, India”.

“Botanical explorations were undertaken in the Prakasam district during April 2018 to February 2020. The species was first spotted in April 2018 but the samples were seen during flowering in July-August,” Pasupuleti Sivaramakrishna, one of the botanists behind the discovery, said. The flowers, which are reddish pink in colour, are very minute, at about 0.5mm. The plant was found growing in rocky crevices at an altitude of about 1,800 metres above mean sea level, very close to the ground, at about less than 10 cm.

“The flowers are very attractive and bloom for months from June to February. The plant can have a rich horticultural value,” said Mr. Sivaramakrishna, who is associated with the Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. Along with Mr. Sivaramakrishna, Pulicherla Yugandhar, another botanist associated with the same institute, has contributed to the discovery.

“We have been able to grow the plant species ( Portulaca laljii ) in our college botanical garden as a part of ex situ conservation and we found that the plant bears beautiful, tiny pink flowers for eight months. It is because of the succulent nature of tuberous roots that the plant can survive on rocky crevices,” Mr. Sivaramakrishna said.

The plants belonging genus Portulaca are classified in the category Sun Rose because they flower in bright sunshine. The genus was described by Linnaeus in 1753 as a type genus of the flowering plant family Portulacaceae, and presently comprise over 100 taxa which are distributed throughout tropical and subtropical regions of the world. In India, earlier studies on the genus Portulaca have revealed the presence of eight species. The plants belonging to genus Portulaca show various degrees of succulence in their vegetative parts like roots, stems and leaves. For instance, all the vegetative parts of Portulaca oleracea are succulent, whereas in Portulaca tuberosa the highest succulence is found in the roots compared with the leaves. The species are widely distributed in both forests and agricultural fields, unlike the new Portulaca laljii which only grows naturally in rocky crevices.

Portulaca laljii has been named to honour the contribution of Lal Ji Singh, an eminent botanist of the Botanical Survey of India associated with the Andaman and Nicobar Centre of the Botanical Survey of India. The species has been placed under the ‘Data Deficient’ category of the IUCN List of Threatened Species because very little information is available about the population of the species.

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