Science & Technology

Rare plant species rediscovered in Western Ghats after more than 100 years

The wild plant was redicsovered in a biosphere reserve in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu

By Sunderarajan Padmanabhan
Last Updated: Tuesday 27 June 2017 | 12:11:19 PM
Researchers call for a survey to locate newer populations of the species. Credit: Dinesh Valke / Flickr
Researchers call for a survey to locate newer populations of the species. Credit: Dinesh Valke / Flickr Researchers call for a survey to locate newer populations of the species. Credit: Dinesh Valke / Flickr

A group of Indian taxonomists has rediscovered a wild plant after a gap of nearly 100 years.

Called Ceropegia omissa H.Huber, the species was last seen in 1916. Prior to this, it was seen and collected only on two occasions—in 1835 and 1914. Interestingly, all the sightings have been made in a narrow region, within a radius of about 50 km in southern parts of the Western Ghats.

The area of occurrence of this plant is close to Courtallam (or Kuttalam) in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, a tourism spot known for its waterfalls.

The region from where it has been found is a biosphere reserve and thus, there would be not much difficulty in launching efforts to conserve it.

Flowers are traded and propagated as ornamental plants. Credit: India Science Wire

The flowers of Ceropegia genus look like a fountain of wax. The scientific name was derived from this aspect: 'keros', meaning wax and 'pege', meaning fountain. Plants of this genus have many common names, including lantern flower, parasol flower, parachute flower, bushman’s pipe, string of hearts, snake creeper, wine-glass vine, rosary vine, and necklace vine. Such flowers are traded and propagated as ornamental plants.

Researchers came across the rare plant while exploring south Indian orchid species Habenaria Wild. The two plants were found growing alongside each other. It took some time before the rare plant was identified as Ceropegia Omissa as not much information about it was available in literature. None seem to have illustrated or photographed the floral details.

In a report on their finding published in the latest issue of journal Current Science, the scientists said, "there is a need for extensive exploration survey to locate newer populations of the species and assess its reproductive ecology to ensure its survival."

The study was conducted by K Prasad of Botanical Survey of India’s Deccan Regional Centre, Hyderabad, P Venu of Environmental Protection Training and Research Institute, Hyderabad and S Kaliamoorthy of National Orchidarium and Experimental Garden, Yercaud.

The Centre has identified floriculture as a sunrise industry and has accorded it 100 per cent export-oriented status. Owing to steady increase in demand for flowers both within and outside the country, it has become one of the important commercial trades in agriculture. Consequently, it has emerged as a high-tech activity taking place under controlled climatic conditions in greenhouses. A main upside of floriculture is that it has a higher potential per unit area than most of the field crops. (India Science Wire)

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Related Story:

New global map that charts plant diversity

Painting vanished species

We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.