Travel to India’s north eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh and you might discover a new plant or animal every step of the way. As one of the richest bio-geograpical zones of the Himalayas the state is bestowed with most diverse variety of plants and animals. And now adding to the already varied natural treasure, once again researchers have discovered a new rhododendron species, a pink flowering plant from the state.
The pink flowering plant, that was till now unknown to the world was discovered few kilometres away from the China border in West Siang district’s remote Mechukha valley. This new species has been christened – ‘Rhododendron mechukae’.
Arunachal Pradesh, India’s north eastern state is located at a peculiar topographical region in India. As a stepping stone to the great Himalayan range, the entire territory is filled with varying elevations from small 50 m tall hills to the huge over 7000 m tall mountain ranges. This geographical uniqueness combined with the high altitude climatic conditions make Arunachal Pradesh an ideal hunting ground for researchers on the lookout for natural treasures.
The state has 61 specie and 17 sub species of rhododendron, which already forms 84.7% of the country’s total Rhododendron species!
The word Rhododendron literally means red tree in Greek, referring to the red flowers commonly associated with the species. Often regarded as the best flowering evergreen plants for the temperate landscape, rhododendrons are also known as the ‘King of Shrubs’.
New Pink Flower
The new species was discovered by Sanjeeb Bharali of North Eastern Regional Institute of Science and Technology (NERIST). It has been confirmed by the Botanical Survey of India and recorded in the latest issue of Edinburgh Journal of Botany as a species new to science.
“The tree of 5-10 meters in height grows in semi-dense temperate forest along with other known species of rhododendron and shrubs at an altitude of above 2400 metres. It is common there but habitat is limited to hillsides in Mechukha area,” said scientist Sanjeeb Bharali.
The flower blooms in February each year and can be seen till March.
The sad news though is that the plant is already Critically Endangered (CR). It is found in a tiny area of around 5-10 sq km. It is also an area which is frequently used by locals for timber extraction and this makes the species as well its habitat threatened.
Bharali worries that deforestation for fuel wood and massive destruction of the habitats due to pressures of development is threatening the survival of this species.
The waxy leaves of the plant provide home and shelter to a variety of insects too which leads to the fact that if the beautiful plant becomes extinct, some of its resident insects too would be endangered.
Botanical Survey of India’s scientist A A Mao points out another important fact. He says that since many areas of Arunachal Pradesh are too remote and not easily accessible there might be many more such species here that have not been discovered yet. His claim is not without proof. In the last 4-5 years the scientist and his team have discovered around 10 species of different plants.
A WWF report recorded the discovery of 353 new species of animals and plants in the Eastern Himalayas region between 1998 and 2008. What makes this extraordinary is that the state occupies only 2.5 percent of the country’s geographical area.
Arunachal Pradesh possesses India’s second highest level of genetic resources. Although occupying only 2.5 per cent of India’s geographical area, the state occupies a significant place in terms of floral and faunal biodiversity, being considered one of the world’s 18 biodiversity hotspots.
Hopefully, like the rest of the country, unplanned urban development will not rob the state of its natural beauty.
More Related Stories,