A plant species, the Olax nana, which was last reportedly seen at least a 100 years ago, has been re discovered in a village in Gujarat’s Kutch. A low undershrub, the plant grows up to a height of 60cm and the Gujarat Biodiversity Act categorizes it as a threatened species.
Last sighted at Porbandar district in 1910, Botanical Survey of India’s reports later on have not mentioned the plant in any of their surveys, thus leading to the inference of it having gone extinct. However, the latest sighting has been a reason of celebration for the locals of the village Lathedi, where the plant was found again and they have taken it upon themselves to safeguard the plant from any harm.
A report that first came out in Mongabay, quoted assistant professor at the botany department in The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda PS Nagar as saying, “I was personally working in this area (in the Saurashtra region) between 1996 and 2003, but did not see this plant species,” No one has been yet able to ascertain the reason behind the plant’s disappearance.
Back in 2015, during the course of a study focused on endangered plants, Olax nana was re-discovered near Lathedi.
Pankaj Joshi from the NGO Sahjeeva thanked the village Biodiversity Management Committee which brought the plant to be identified.
Locals, when informed of the rediscovery, however were not initially excited about it but eventually awareness drives conducted by experts managed to pique their interest in preserving the plant. A significant time was then spent on trying to find out the plant’s local name. The elders in the villagers and other experts managed to finally come up with the local name of the plant that had instilled a sense of pride in the villagers- Sudiyo.
The villagers, after confirming the name, collaborated with the Biodiversity Management Committee members and put up thorn fences all around the plant, in order to safeguard it.
The preservation of the Olax Nana has led to other good things also- Members from the Committee also visit local schools and teach the children the importance of conserving plants of all shapes and sizes.
Even though in Gujarat the plant species was found after nearly a century, it has been found in states such as Assam, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal and Punjab.
Nagar reportedly told that much more efforts need to be put to preserve rare flora species.
In-situ conservation is what experts believe is the way to go forward with such rare plants. The process is actually conservation of an endangered plant or animal species in its natural habitat. Ex-situ or off-site conservation entails relocating an endangered plant or animal species from their natural habitat to protected areas.
Villagers in Lathedi, however, are doing everything possible in their capacity to protect the plant from harm, be it grazing animals or bad weather. The fence guards the plant from goats or cows. They also have asked for help from the NGO to make a permanent fenced structure to help protect the plant.