On World Environment Day, there is some good news for plant lovers. As many as 51 new species, six new varieties to science, one sub-specie and a variety of plants new to Indian flora were discovered in 2007.
India has about 44,500 species of identified plants, which account for seven per cent of plant species in the world.
About 28 per cent of Indian plants are endemic to the country. Indian flora is concentrated in three centres — the Himalayas, Western Ghats and Andaman and Nicobar Islands — says a new report by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) on plant discoveries, released on Thursday.
The new species have been added to India's bio-diversity heritage and have been recognised internationally, said M Sanjappa, director of BSI. He added that India, with about 15 per cent of the world's bio-diversity, has a lot of scope for the evolution of new species.
The discoveries include: the flower agapetes arunachalensis, named after Arunachal Pradesh where it was found; spikelet variety of plant in Tamil Nadu; lichens in West Bengal; and algae in the Western Ghats.
BSI scientists also found plants unknown to Indian flora. It included a new variety found naturalised in Khasi Hills in upper Shillong, Meghalaya. The species used to be found in China and Japan, the report said.
The BSI also discovered that North-East India is home to several flowering plants, originally found in China, Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand. Species originally found in Europe, North America, Sri Lanka, and Africa were found in Himachal Pradesh.
These include tree-climbing varieties and liverworts, and fungi — originally found in South Africa — that grow in the Chamba forests.
West Bengal now has a liverwort, whose original home is Europe and North America, and a new fungal species with cosmopolitan distribution. Fungi from Australia, Spain, Belarus and Mauritius have been found in Sargakhet forest in Uttrakhand.
On the flipside, India has also lost species to degradation of forests in the past few years. Taxonomy experts say India has lost over 50 vital species in the past decade.