Guwahati: Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Bhopal have recently discovered a new species of plant belonging to the African Violets family in Mizoram.

Along with other discoveries by the IISER Bhopal Research Team in the past few years, this discovery shows that the biodiversity of the Northeastern parts of India is understudied and there are many species of plants that remain undiscovered.

Dr. Vinita Gowda (middle) along with her research scholars.

A group of botanists from IISER, Bhopal discovered the plant from Mizoram and adjacent areas in Myanmar. This discovery is an outcome of extensive fieldwork across the Northeast coupled with a rigorous study of past collections kept in herbariums across the world.

The discovery has been published in the journal Systematic Botany (a peer-reviewed journal published by American Society for Plant Taxonomists) in a paper co-authored by Prasanna N.S., Research Scholar, and Dr Vinita Gowda, Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, IISER Bhopal.

Also Read | International Day for Biological Diversity: Here’s why Northeast is a biodiversity hotspot

Didymocarpus is a genus belonging to the plant family Gesneriaceae (commonly known as African Violets) and 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 the Northeastern states of India.

The newly described species Didymocarpus vickifunkiae (Gesneriaceae) is currently known from only three locations in Mizoram and considered as an endangered species. It is an epiphyte (plants that grow on trees) and produces light pink flowers during the monsoons. The species is named in honour of Late Dr Vicki Ann Funk, a renowned Botanist who worked at Smithsonian Institute, USA.

Highlighting the importance of Research, Dr Gowda said, “Northeast India is home to highly diverse flora because of its unique biogeographic placement as part of two biodiversity hotspots: the Indo-Burma hotspot and the Eastern Himalayas.”

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