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IISER Bhopal Scientists Discover New Species of the African Violet Plant in Mizoram

 African Violet Plant

African Violet Plant

The flowers are currently known to locate at only three locations in Mizoram and considered an endangered species.

Researchers of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Bhopal have discovered a new species of plant belonging to the African Violets family in Mizoram and adjacent areas in Myanmar. The discovery is an outcome of extensive fieldwork across northeast India by the institute.

“The discovery brings new insights into the unique evolutionary trajectory of flora in this region of India. Beyond the academic desire to document biodiversity, finding the ‘missing pieces’ of the biodiversity puzzle are important in designing conservation approaches to protect the fragile ecosystem of such hotspots," said IISER Bhopal in an official release.

African Violets or Didymocarpus and its members are distributed from Western Himalayas to Sumatra and require specialised habitats to survive. There are 106 currently known species of this genus, of which 26 are present in Northeastern states of India.

The flowers are currently known to locate at only three locations in Mizoram and considered an endangered species. The light pink flowers only grow during monsoons. The species is named in honour of Late Dr Vicki Ann Funk, a renowned Botanist who worked at Smithsonian Institute, USA.

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The IISER Bhopal team claims that they were studying the evolution and biogeography of Didymocarpus plants. While collecting the plants for study, authors stumbled upon a plant which was distinct from all botanically known plants. After a critical examination of the morphology, published literature, and past collections that are preserved in the natural history museums in India and the UK, they described it as a new species.

Dr Vinita Gowda, Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, IISER Bhopal said, “Northeast India is home to highly diverse flora because of its unique biogeographic placement as part of two biodiversity hotspots: the Indo-Burma hotspot and the Eastern Himalayas.”

“This is science in its finest form - a field of investigation that seeks knowledge and depth because, for man, there is much to learn in the wonders of nature,” added Dr Gowda.

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first published:May 24, 2021, 18:23 IST