Medicinal plant rediscovered in Arunachal Pradesh

Published: Sunday 31 December 2006

an endangered medicinal plant has been rediscovered in Arunachal Pradesh after about a century. Scientists of the Botanical Survey of India came upon the Begonia tessaricarpa in the Ligu village of Upper Subansiri district while cataloguing the flora of the district.

"The leaves of this plant are used by the Tagin and the Adi tribes of this district as a cure for dehydration and stomach disorder. The juice of Rebe, as the plant is locally called, is used as leech guard," said Kumar Ambrish, a scientist. The find was reported in the October 25 issue of Current Science (Vol 91, No 8).

The scientists found the plants at an altitude of 600 m in a forest with moist conditions and temperature of around 25c. It was first listed in scientific literature by the British scientist C B Clarke in 1879 but had not been spotted since then.

"It is an annual plant which flowers and fruits between October and November and we first spotted it in 2004. Later in 2005, we found the flower with two petals and two sepals growing in a scattered manner in the state's Namdapha National Park in the eastern Changlang district. The verifications took long and hence the delay in publicising the rediscovery," Ambarish said.

The species is endemic to Arunachal Pradesh. It is feared that it will be extinct in the near future because of destruction of its habitat due to various biotic and abiotic factors. The leaves of this 30 cm long plant are usually cooked, while a section of the tribal population just consume it raw.

"We brought two plants to our polyhouse at Shillong. One of them died due to stress of habitat change, but the other is still surviving," said Ambarish. "Everybody thought the plant had become extinct as there were no reports of sighting Rebe and no recorded use by locals for medicinal purpose," he added. Extensive studies, according to the scientists, on the plant are now being carried out.

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