NEW DISCOVERY: The rich and diverse flora of Sunderbans mangrove forests has sprung a surprise with a new find – one more species of mangrove. What is even better is that this discovery came after a span of 54 long years.

Acanthus Albus, the new species was discovered accidentally by workers of an NGO, Nature, Environment and Wildlife Society (NEWS) while on an afforestation drive along a new embankment at the Sunderbans. The discovery has been confirmed as a new mangrove variety by the Botanical Survey of India and the Indian Journal of Forestry.

This white mangrove species, similar to acanthus, is a sub-species that grows as an expansive 1.5 m long undershrub. When the discovery was made last July, it was initially presumed to be an albino variety of the acanthus. However since it appeared smaller and slightly different, a sample was sent to the Botanical Survey of India. It was then confirmed to be a new species by botanists and a paper was published by the Indian Journal of Forestry to affirm the same.

“Initially, we thought it to be an albino variety of the original acanthus. But it was smaller and looked a tad different. We collected a sample and sent it to the Botanical Survey, which later confirmed it to be a new variety. The Indian Journal of Forestry has published a paper to assure people of the fact,” said Biswajit Roy Chowdhury, secretary of NEWS.

There are 64 species of mangroves in Sunderbans, which are divided into three categories — true mangrove, back mangrove and associate mangrove. Acanthus Albus belongs to the true mangrove category.

Its stem is cylindrical, woody, smooth, glossy, bristle-free, longitudinally grooved and light green in colour. The leaves are narrow at the base and have 4-5 pairs of sharp teeth at the edge.

“This is an important find. It proves that there are many other things to be discovered at the Sunderbans. The last variety of mangrove was discovered more than 50 years ago. There could be more waiting to be unearthed,” said HS Debnath, joint director and head of Botanic Garden.

The employees of NEWS were involved in planting mangroves across 6,000 hectares alongside the new embankment of the Sunderbans when the new species drew their attention.

“This new species is good news for the survival of mangroves in the Sunderbans,” said Roy Chowdhury.

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About Ramya Naresh

Ramya is a homemaker who likes to live in harmony with Nature, believing that each form of life is a wonder in itself. She values living in the present and looks forward to each day in all its freshness. She is a Senior Writer with India's Endangered.

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