Arunachal’s Kekar-Monying gives new Begonia plant species to world

Researchers have published a new and wonderful species Begonia, the world’s fastest-growing genus, in Phytotaxa, world’s leading journal in plant taxonomy. The article was jointly authored by Rajiv Gandhi University m Ph.D scholar Momang Taraof,  Goalpara College assistant professor Dipankar Borah  and  England-based Royal Botanic Gardens tropical biodiversity scientist of the Mark Hughes.

Begonia is a very complex genus with a lot of sections and 2000 species, and it’s much difficult to identify them and find its closest allies. We almost failed to find the second ally, only after the editor from China helped us to find it,” Taram said.

The new species finds its extant population in moist crevices near Kekar Monying, a mountain cliff of Babuk in Siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. The stone cliff (about 500X50 meters) offers a stunning view of the surrounding area after the hike. Hence the name of the species, Begonia kekarmonyingensis.

This is the second Begonia species they have jointly published after the famous Begonia oyuniae (Named by Oyun Dai, enthusiastic Adi plant taxonomist, a story on her was recently published in Mongabay, Of course, beloved mother of  Taram.

“It was in February when Momang called me and tirelessly explained that her camera is malfunctioning and she has found an interesting Begonia, and it must be a new one. I got too excited and took the next bus to Pasighat. Reaching her home, she showed me the plants and very carefully we dissected and took the photographs. The next hard part was describing it and validating its uniqueness. We did the description and were sure of the help from Mark Hughes, a young and great expert on Begonia, currently engaged in Royal Botanic Gardens,. He has reached great heights describing several new Begonias from Southeast Asia and revising the genera for many countries. It was only after he published “Revision of Begonia in Northeast India”, we came to know him.

After contacting him, we shared the conversation and emails for almost six months, and finally communicated to Phytotaxa. The subject editor we were assigned is another expert on Chinese Begonias, and we were glad as this would further validate our observation and would get very close scrutiny from the experts of the nearest border (many plant species has been mistakenly identified as new, which always turns to be a known species from the either sides of the border, this issue is also pointed out in our article). After we received the first review with comments from four different reviewers, it almost took us six more months to get back to them with the responses and justifications. And hence it got finally published after 14 months from the day we took the species in hand.” Borah said.

The common name for this species is Kekar-monying Begonia, which will easily grab the attention for the place, the species and it would be easy for the locals to understand and pronounce the name. And hopefully they would care for this species, as of their own.

Given the single location and lack of protection for the area, the species is assessed as Vulnerable, IUCN category under criteria VU D1 & D2 (IUCN Standards and Petitions Subcommittee, 2017). And they hopefully appeal to the different ministries of Arunachal Govt. to take necessary steps in protection and make efforts for keeping the species extant for the next generations. One can gaze at the flowering of this species from February-April.

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