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Monday, December 06, 2021

Explained: What is Allium negianum?

An onion species from the Uttarakhand Himalayas, known to locals but newly described in science.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: October 19, 2021 7:37:39 am
The flower of Allium negianum. (Source: Pensoft Publishers)

A plant discovered in Uttarakhand in 2019 has been newly confirmed as a new species of Allium — the genus that includes many staple foods such as onion and garlic, among 1,100 species worldwide. The new species is described in journal PhytoKeys.

In 2019, Dr Anjula Pandey, Principal Scientist at ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources in New Delhi, together with scientists Drs K Madhav Rai, Pavan Kumar Malav and S Rajkumar, came across plants of this onion species, which they have named Allium negianum, in the border area of Malari village, in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. It grows at 3,000 to 4,800 m above sea level and can be found along open grassy meadows, sandy soils along rivers, and streams forming in snow pasture lands along alpine meadows, where the melting snow helps carry its seeds to more favourable areas. With a narrow distribution, this newly described species is restricted to the region of western Himalayas and hasn’t yet been reported from anywhere else in the world, according to a blog post from Pensoft Publishers, which brings out the journal.

The scientific name Allium negianum honours the late Dr Kuldeep Singh Negi, an explorer and Allium collector.

Although new to science, this species has long been known under domestic cultivation to local communities, the blog post said. It said that according to locals, the onion from Niti valley was particularly good, even deemed the best on the market.

So far only known from the western Himalaya region, Allium negianum might be under pressure from people looking to taste it, the blog post said. “… the researchers fear that indiscriminate harvest of its leaves and bulbs for seasoning may pose a threat to its wild populations,” it said.

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