Tawang adds new alpine plant species to science

ITANAGAR, Feb 23: A team of researchers from three institutes across India have discovered a new alpine plant species from Tawang district in Arunachal Pradesh, which is endemic to the region of its discovery.

The discovery of the researchers was published in the international peer-reviewed journal Biodiversitas: Journal of biological diversity on Saturday last.

The new species belongs to the genus Cremanthodium, commonly known as Himalayan sunflower of the family Asteraceae, Dr Lobsang Tashi Thungon a research fellow from North Eastern Regional Institute of Science and Technology (NERIST) here, who is one of the researchers said.

Cremanthodium is an alpine genus distributed in the Sino-Himalayan region with a total of 78 recognized species. India was so far represented by 16 species and 1 subspecies.

“It is named as Cremanthodium indicum after India, the country of its origin,” Dr Thungon said.

The other researchers along with Thungon who made the discovery include Dipankar Borah of Associate Professor of Goalpara College in Assam and Dr Rajeev Kumar Singh scientist at Botanical Survey of India (BSI).

First collected in 2017, the species confused the authors for a long time. Finally with the help of Dr Magnus Liden of Uppsala Botanic Gardens, Sweden and subject experts from China, it was concluded to be a new species in 2019 and published eventually in the journal this year, Dr Thungon said.

The species of plant which generally flowers from July to August, is so far endemic to Penga-Teng Tso Lake of Tawang district, where it was discovered.

“Only 270 mature individuals are left within a single location and it is assessed as critically endangered, according to the criteria B1 and B2 of the IUCN (2019) guidelines,” Dr Thungon said.

Tawang district holds one of the most unique assemblages of flowering plants within the state, which led to the attraction of several botanists throughout the globe in the recent years.

More than twenty flowering plants have been newly discovered to science in the recent decade from the bordering district with Tibet region of China, It definitely holds more potential for numerous other discoveries, Dr Thungon said.

“The ethical sense of conservation within the Buddhist community holds a great reason for preserving this beautiful diversity,” he added.

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