The Botanical Survey of India, in its new publication Plant Discoveries 2020 has added 267 new taxa/ species to the country’s flora. The 267 new discoveries include 119 angiosperms; 3 pteridophytes; 5 bryophytes, 44 lichens; 57 fungi, 21 algae and 18 microbes.
In 2020, 202 new plant species were discovered across the country and 65 new records were added.
With these new discoveries the latest estimate of plant diversity in India stands at 54,733 taxa including 21,849 angiosperms, 82 gymnosperms, 1310 Pteridophytes, 2791 bryophytes, 2961 lichens, 15,504 fungi, 8979 algae and 1257 microbes.
“The year 2020 will remain marked in global history for the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, with the havoc it caused and still continues in 2021. This overwhelming addition of 267 plant taxa to the Indian Flora, which were discovered as either new species or as new distributional records for India, is nowhere less than the average number of new plant discoveries made from India during the past one and half decade,” said Director of Botanical Survey of India, A.A. Mao.
Among the new discoveries this year, nine new species of balsams (Impatiens) one species of wild banana ( Musa pradhanii ) were discovered from Darjeeling, one species each of wild jamun ( Sygygium anamalaianum ) from Coimbatore and fern species ( Selaginella odishana ) were recorded from Kandhamal in Odisha. There are 14 new macro and 31 new micro fungi species recorded from various parts of India.
An assessment of the geographical distribution of these newly discovered plants reveals that 22% of the discoveries were made from the Western Ghats followed by Western Himalayas (15%), Eastern Himalayas (14%) and Northeast Ranges (12%). The West coast contributed 10% while East Coast contributed (9%) in total discoveries; Eastern Ghats and South Deccan contribute 4% of each while Central Highland and North Deccan added 3% each.
Ravi Agrawal, Additional Secretary, MoEF&CC, who released the publication said India being a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is committed to work towards the prime objective of Global Strategy of Plant Conservation and the newly discovered species may offer potential source of wild edible plants, traditional drugs, cosmetics and wild relative of crop plants.
Another scientist from the BSI, S.S. Dash who played a crucial role in the discoveries, said 45% of novelties published in various national and international journals are of seed plants, 21% fungi, 8% algae, 16% lichen and 7% microbes while 2% are bryophytes and 1% pteridophytes. This year one new monogeneric family Hanguanaceae has been recorded for the first time from India, he added.
Sanjay Kumar, botanist with the BSI, associated with the compilation work of plant discoveries since 2012, explained that during the last decade a total number of 3,245 taxa of plants from different plant groups have been discovered from India. Most discoveries have been made from seed plants, with 1,199 (37%) taxa, followed by fungi 894 (27%), he added.