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Friday, September 17, 2021

New plant species named after Kerala’s Communist leaders

Assessing the conservation status, the team noted that all three species are critically endangered.

Written by Aswathi Pacha | Kochi |
Updated: August 25, 2021 1:20:00 pm
new plant species(From left) The three new species of Impatiens, Impatiens achudanandanii, I. danii, and I. shailajae (Sindhu Arya et al. / PhytoKeys)

What do pop star Lady Gaga and former Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan have in common? They both have plants named after them.

A new succulent herb discovered from Thiruvananthapuram’s Kallar forest area has been named Impatiens achudanandanii in honor of his efforts in the conservation of the Western Ghats. The plant grows 15–20 cm tall, has whitish-creamy flowers with yellow spots, and is found at high-lands above 1200 m.

The team identified two more species belonging to the Impatiens genus and named them I.shailajae and I. danii.

I.shailajae, found along the streams of Sangili evergreen forest in Thiruvananthapuram, grows 10-15 cm tall and has white-purpleish flowers. “I.shailajae is eponymous to Mrs. K.K. Shailaja, former Health Minister of Kerala, honoring her efforts to tackle various epidemic and pandemic situations in the state of Kerala through scientific temper,” noted the paper published last week in Phytokeys.

Though a few researchers have raised concerns about naming plant species after politicians, the director of the Botanical Survey of India said that as long as the naming is done following the International Code of Nomenclature, the name is valid. “We have several species in our country that were identified during the British rule and named after their queens and kings and even the high-ranking representatives in India. I see no harm in naming a plant after a politician,” said Dr A A Mao.

I.danii was collected from Idukki, Munnar and stands 10-20 cm tall bearing white flowers with a yellow blotch on the throat. It was named in honor of Dr. Mathew Dan, senior scientist at the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute, Thiruvananthapuram. He is an expert in the field of systematics and conservation of angiosperms in the Western Ghats.

The three plants belong to the Balsaminaceae family which has over 1,000 species and are found in Africa, Madagascar, India, and Sri Lanka. There are 210 taxa in India and over 106 species are endemic to the Western Ghats, and studies have shown that 80 percent of them are endangered.

Assessing the conservation status, the team noted that all three species are critically endangered. The habitat of I. achudanandanii was severely affected by the stampeding of wild elephants and landslides.

“All these species have been facing threats from grazing and anthropogenic disturbances. We have already identified about eight taxa from this region and I’m confident that extensive studies will give us several species new to science. We are currently continuing our field surveys in the region,” explained corresponding author Dr VS Anil from the Department of Botany, (Research centre, University of Kerala) University College, Thiruvananthapuram.

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