Guwahati: In much good news and surprise for orchid lovers, a new orchid species found in Arunachal Pradesh has bloomed after four years of its sighting.
Researchers from the Regional Orchid Germplasm Conservation and Propagation Centre in Tinsukia and the Botanical Survey of India in Itanagar have discovered the new orchid species – identified as Schoenorchis mishmensis – named after the Mishmi Hills of Arunachal Pradesh, where it was found. In India, the genus Schoenorchis has seven species.
The research paper on the species by Khyanjeet Gogoi, Pranab Mega and Krishna Chowlu has been published in the Phytotaxa journal.
Arunachal Pradesh, also known as the ‘Orchid Paradise’, is home to a total of 650 orchid species, which is nearly half of the orchid species found across rest of India.
Khyanjeet Gogoi of the Regional Orchid Germplasm Conservation and Propagation Centre in Tinsukia collected an unidentified orchid belonging to Schoenorchis genus in “vegetative condition” while on a tour to Mishmi Hills in 2019.
The orchid is found on tree trunks at 900 metres in tropical mixed evergreen forests of Mishmi Hills in Lower Dibang Valley district, the richest bio-geographical province of the Himalayan zone that falls under one of the mega biodiversity hotspots of the world.
The plant was cultivated at the Regional Orchid Germplasm Conservation and Propagation Centre in Tinsukia and kept under observation.
It started flowering in 2022, when scrutiny of the available literature revealed it to be distinct from other known species of the genus to be described as a species new to science.
“The species was collected from Mishmi Hills in 2019; we observed it over the last four years and now it flowered. It is the most exciting feature that this species has bloomed after 4 years,” Krishna Chowlu, a scientist at the Botanical Survey of India told EastMojo.
Chowlu said it would take a study of at least 10-15 years to find out the reason for the species to bloom after 4 years. Orchids generally flower in one year’s time.
While this species is morphologically similar to Schoenorchis brevirachis and S. micrantha, it differs in the size and shape of plant, has a long zig-zag stem, terete leaves, densely placed flowers, very short inflorescence and lip, V-shaped callus, mid channel on surface of mid lobe and raised subglobose callus on the disc, almost covering the spur.
The species can be classified as Critically Endangered based on its small population, the researchers have noted.
There is a single population of Schoenorchis mishmensis from Mishmi Hills containing 20 individuals occurring in an area of 4 sq kms. No anthropogenic activity was observed in the area barring trampling of the plants by wild animals.
The Mishmi Hill is located in the Eastern region of Arunachal Pradesh and some part of the area in Lower Dibang Valley (281.5 sq.km) is protected under Mehao Wildlife Sanctuary.
The northern and eastern portions of Mishmi Hills share their boundaries with China. The hill range lies to the north of the Assam Valley.
This complex hill system of varying elevations receives heavy rainfall, which can be as much as 4,500-5,000mm annually in the foothill areas. The diversity of topographical and climatic conditions has favoured the growth of luxuriant forests home to myriad plant and animal forms.
Over 6,000 plant species, 100 species of mammals, 680 species of birds, 500 species of orchids, 50 species of Rhododendron and a large number of butterflies, and insects can be found in these forests.
Such a unique occurrence of lifeforms can be attributed to the location, which is at the junction of the Paleoarctic, Indo-Chinese, and Indo-Malayan bio-geographic regions. The vegetation is classified into tropical evergreen, tropical semi-evergreen, sub-tropical broad leaved, sub-tropical pine, temperate broad leaved, temperate conifer, sub-alpine woody shrub, alpine meadow, degraded, bamboo, and grasslands.
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