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New species highlights plant diversity of Palakkad

The Hindu, New Delhi, 06 April, 2015

Scientists call for curbs on quarrying in biodiversity pockets 


A team of scientists from four research institutions in Kerala have reported the discovery of a rare species of plant from the Palakkad gap region of the Western Ghats, highlighting the floral diversity in the region and triggering the demand for strict curbs on quarrying in biodiversity pockets.


The team comprising Solan Jose, V. Suresh, and Maya C. Nair from the Government Victoria College, Palakkad; K.M. Prabhukumar from the Centre for Medicinal Plants Research under the Arya Vaidyasala, Kottakkal; V.V.Asha from the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, Thiruvananthapuram; and R. Prakashkumar and P.V. Madhusoodanan from the Malabar Botanic Garden, Kozhikode; came across the plant in a quarry during an exploration of the Nenmara region south of Palakkad in the valley of the Nelliyampathy hills.


Detailed studies established it as a new species. Named Oldenlandia dineshi, the plant is a shrub with long linear tapering leaves and dark blue flowers. The flowering period is from July to September and fruiting from September to October.


The species has been named in honour of T.K. Dinesh Kumar, former Professor of Botany, University College, Thiruvananthapuram. A paper on the new species published in the Kew Bulletin describes Prof. Kumar as a great teacher and taxonomist who stood away from the limelight .


The genus Oldenlandia comprises about 248 species of which 27 have been reported from India, mainly distributed in the southern parts of the Western Ghats and North and North-East India. Among these, 12 species and one variety have been recorded from various locations in Kerala. According to Mr. Prabhukumar, several species of the Oldenlandia family are widely used in Ayurveda for preparation of formulations such as Chyawanaprasam.


“Further investigations will be needed to ascertain whether this species is a medicinal herb,” he said. Based on IUCN criteria, the researchers have classified Oldenlandia dineshii as an endangered species.


Mr. Suresh said the discovery underlined the need for stricter controls on quarrying in biodiversity pockets and the restoration and conservation of spent quarries.