THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A new plant species has been discovered at the peak of the Ponmudi hills. Christened ‘Symplocos mohananii’, the species belongs to the genus Symplocos and family Symplocaceae. With the discovery of this endemic plant species, it becomes the 25th endemic species in the family of Symplocaceae in Western Ghats and points to the highly diverse floral and unexplored terrain of the Western Ghats.
A team of researchers comprising Stephan J, and Akhil R research scholars from Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) along with P W Fritsch, curator, Botanical Research Institute of Texas, Texas, USA discovered the species. The study has been published in the scientific journal Phytotaxa.
”The discovery throws light into the fact there are many such undiscovered species in the forests and the need to protect them and do more research on them. It shows the Western Ghats is highly diverse in terms of flora,” says Akhil. The plant has been named thus in honour of Narayanan Nair Mohanan, retired senior principal scientist of JNTBGRI. “It is to honour his contributions in plant taxonomy and I am his last student. So I thought of naming the plant after my guide,” said Stephan.
The species cries to be conserved and has been placed in the critically endangered category. Researchers found only five larger trees on the crest of the Ponmudi Hills. “The species is found only at the edge of forest and grassland.
The number of trees were less than 10 and we could spot only seven mature trees. As this area is part of a major tourist spot and due its numbering less than 10, it has been classified as critically endangered,” said Stephan. The plant has been observed to grow at the edges of hilltop evergreen forest. The flowering of the plant is from November to March and fruiting March to May. The fruit is not edible.