In its latest book Plant Discoveries 2020, the Botanical Survey of India has introduced 267 new taxa/species to the country’s flora. There are 119 angiosperms, 3 pteridophytes, 5 bryophytes, 44 lichens, 57 fungi, 21 algae, and 18 bacteria among the 267 new discoveries.
In 2020, 202 new plant species and 65 new records were found throughout the nation.
With these new findings, India now has 54,733 species of plants, including 21,849 angiosperms, 82 gymnosperms, 1310 Pteridophytes, 2791 bryophytes, 2961 lichens, 15,504 fungi, 8979 algae, and 1257 microorganisms.
“The breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 will go down in history as a watershed moment in human history, with the devastation it wreaked and continues to wreak in 2021. This massive addition of 267 plant taxa to the Indian Flora, which were found as new species or distributional records for India, is much more than the average number of new plant discoveries recorded from India over the last 15 years,” stated A.A. Mao, Director of the Botanical Survey of India.
Nine new species of balsams (Impatiens) and one species of wild banana (Musa pradhanii) were found in Darjeeling this year, as well as one species each of wild jamun (Sygygium anamalaianum) and fern species (Selaginella odishana) in Coimbatore and Kandhamal in Odisha. From different areas of India, 14 new macro and 31 new micro fungus species have been discovered.
According to an analysis of the geographical distribution of these newly found plants, the Western Ghats accounted for 22% of the finds, followed by the Western Himalayas (15%), Eastern Himalayas (14%), and Northeast Ranges (14%). (12 percent ). The West Coast provided 10% of all discoveries, while the East Coast gave 9%; Eastern Ghats and South Deccan each contributed 4%, while Central Highland and North Deccan each contributed 3%.
The newly discovered species may offer potential sources of wild edible plants, traditional drugs, cosmetics, and wild relatives of crop plants, according to Ravi Agrawal, Additional Secretary, MoEF&CC, who released the publication. India is a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and is committed to working towards the primary goal of the Global Strategy of Plant Conservation.
S.S. Dash, another BSI scientist who played a key role in the discoveries, said seed plants account for 45 percent of novelties published in national and international journals, fungi for 21%, algae for 8%, lichen for 16%, and microbes for 7%, while bryophytes and pteridophytes account for 2% and 1%, respectively. This year, he said, one new monogeneric family, Hanguanaceae, was discovered for the first time in India.
Sanjay Kumar, a botanist at the BSI who has been involved with the compilation of plant discoveries since 2012, said that 3,245 taxa of plants from various plant families have been found in India over the past decade. Seed plants have yielded the most taxa (1,199, or 37 percent), followed by fungi (894, or 27 percent), he said.
Source: The Hindu