As many as 40 rare and endangered plant species found in different regions of Gujarat are on the verge of extinction, and several of them may no longer be located in a few years from now if proper steps are not taken towards their conservation, a field study conducted by the Botany Department of the MS University has concluded. Among these plants is a rare finding: the only insectivorous plant ever sighted in Gujarat which is also the only one of its kind in the world.
Found in Valsad, and that too growing on a small patch of 32 square metres land near a natural water spring at Shankar Dhodh in the district’s Dharampur taluka, 35 individuals of this rare species known botanically as drosera indica are battling to survive amidst growing tourism and agricultural activities in the region, MSU researchers from the university’s botany department have concluded as part of a Rs 19-lakh project conducted for the Gujarat Biodiversity Board (GBB). Drosera indica is among 40 plants chronicled as part of a study on “endemic and threatened plants of the state.”
“In 2005, M Parabia, a retired a faculty member of Vir Narmad South Gujarat University (VNSGU) in Surat first sighted the plant near Dabkhal, also in Valsad district. He could only locate five plants of the rare species which were spread over an area of 2 hectare open grazed pastureland. This is the second finding of the species which has only been found in Gujarat,” said PS Nagar, a faculty with the MSU’s botany department who has worked as a principal investigator on the project.
Because this plant is only 2-10 centimetres in height, it remains hidden among grass that grows around it, making it hard for the plant to get sunlight and thus pass through the process of photosynthesis for food. In the absence of this, the plant has to depend on small insects for food. It has tiny tentacles that excrete sticky substances. When an insect sits on it, it gets stuck, upon which the plant cover it up on all sides and sucks all vital nutrients from the insect. Since the plant is not much known among locals, it does not have any local name.
Situated in a region that has seen increasing farm activity in the past few years and being close to the famous Shankar Waterfalls near Wilson Hills, which is being projected as a tourism site, the rare tiny plant could disappear forever if steps are not taken to keep it alive and in abundance, a research student Karan Rana said. Drosera indica is among plants that were chronicled by researchers associated with the department through field trips conducted in the last one and a half years as part of a Rs 19-lakh project given to the university by the state government’s Gujarat Biodiversity Board (GBB) to study endemic and threatened plants of the state.
Among forty plants that have been chronicled by the department for the GBB, twenty four plants find mention on the list prepared by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) of species that are threatened and on the verge of extinction. Among the remaining seventeen plants are several that are endemic to only Gujarat and are not found anywhere else, including the rare insectivorous plant found in Valsad.
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