New species of African Violet. (Photo: Sourced)
New species of African Violet. (Photo: Sourced)

Researchers at IISER document new species of African Violet in Mizoram

The discovery has been documented in a paper in the peer-reviewed journal Systematic Botany (published by American Society for Plant Taxonomists) nearly four years after the specimen was first observed in the field
PUBLISHED ON MAY 25, 2021 11:00 AM IST

Researchers at Bhopal’s Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) have documented a new plant species in Mizoram from African Violets’ family.

The discovery has been documented in a paper in the peer-reviewed journal Systematic Botany (published by American Society for Plant Taxonomists) nearly four years after the specimen was first observed in the field. Researchers also documented the presence of the same species in Myanmar and said it may also exist in China.

The species belongs to the genus Didymocarpus of the plant family Gesneriaceae popularly known as African Violets. “Its members are distributed from Western Himalayas to Sumatra. Most of these species are narrow endemics and require specialised habitats to survive, thus acting as an indicator of pristine habitats. There are 106 currently known species of this genus, of which 26 are present in Northeastern states of India,” the paper’s authors said in a statement on Monday.

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The newly discovered species has been named Didymocarpus vickifunkiae after the late Vicki Ann Funk, a renowned botanist with the Smithsonian Institute. “The species is currently known to be in three locations in Mizoram and can be categorised as an endangered species based on a standardised assessment devised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature,” said Vinita Gowda, associate professor, department of biological sciences, IISER.

“These findings continue to highlight the taxonomic endemism that we see among the flora of the north-east. Such endemism is typically seen in island habitats, where the species arrives and then by further evolutionary process becomes very localised. It is something that we have seen in the north-eastern states, but we do not know exactly why, because tectonic histories in India are so complex.”

The findings based on in situ and ex situ studies (including molecular phylogenetic analyses with similar African Violet species from other herbariums across the world) are part of a larger study currently being undertaken by Gowda and her PhD students to document the genus Didymocarpus in India. This will help researchers to better understand the plant’s evolutionary traits needed to survive in the country.

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