Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Bhopal have 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.

What

  1. A group of botanists 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, from Mizoram and adjacent areas in Myanmar.
  2. This discovery is an outcome of extensive fieldwork across northeast India coupled with rigorous study of past collections kept in herbariums across the world.
  3. 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.
  4. Most of these species are narrow endemics and require specialized habitats to survive, thus acting as an indicator of pristine habitats.
  5. There are 106 currently known species of this genus, of which 26 are present in Northeastern states of India.
  6. Newly described species Didymocarpus vickifunkiae (Gesneriaceae) is currently known from only three locations in Mizoram and considered as an endangered species.
  7. It is an epiphyte (plants that grow on trees) and produces light pink flowers during the monsoons.

What

  1. The species is named in honour of Late Dr. Vicki Ann Funk, a renowned Botanist who worked at Smithsonian Institute, USA.
  2. Because of its complex geology and climatic conditions, Northeast India, is home to a diverse flora and fauna.
  3. However, much of it remains poorly documented. The IISER Bhopal team was studying the evolution and biogeography of Didymocarpus plants.
  4. The new discovery brings new insights into the unique evolutionary trajectory of flora in this region of India.