New plant species found in Western Ghats

Eugenia sphaerocarpa.

Eugenia sphaerocarpa.  

More detailed botanical exploration of the area is crucial for documentation

A team of scientists of the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) have reported the discovery of three new plant species in the evergreen forest patches of the southern end of the Western Ghats in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The three species — Eugenia sphaerocarpa of the Myrtaceae or Rose apple family, Goniothalamus sericeus of the Annonaceae family of custard apple and Memecylon nervosum of the Melastomataceae (Kayamboo or Kaasavu in local parlance) family — were discovered during a recent exploration led by BSI scientist K.A. Sujana.

Edible fruits

A good population of Eugenia sphaerocarpa is growing in the Kakkayam area of the Malabar wildlife sanctuary in Kerala above 800m. The epithet ‘sphaerocarpa’ denotes to the large, showy lemon-yellow spherical fruits, Dr. Sujana told The Hindu . The fruits of Eugenia species are known for their palatability.

A small number of Goniothalamus sericeus plants has been found in the Kanyakumari wildlife sanctuary in Tamil Nadu at an altitude of 1400m.

Mature flowers with characteristic greenish-yellow to beige petals are fragrant while the fruits are very showy and an attractive golden yellow in colour. Sericeus refers to the presence of dense silky hair on petals, Dr. Sujana explained.

A small population of nervosum was also found at the same sanctuary at an altitude between 700-900m with more than 10 sub-populations located along the banks of a perennial rivulet, Ragesh G. Vadhyar, a researcher involved in the study, said. The species has showy purplish-blue flowers and mauve to purplish red fruits. Nervosum refers to the presence of prominently raised lateral and intramarginal veins on the lower surface of the lamina, Mr. Vadhyar said.

As these species are small trees or shrubs, a more detailed botanical exploration of the Western Ghats is crucial to document them, Dr. Sujana said.

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