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Researchers find new plant species in state

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By Our Reporter

SHILLONG, June 6: Meghalaya has a new plant species known earlier to exist only in Myanmar and Thailand.
Researchers Rhuthuparna SB and V Gowda from the Tropical Ecology and Evolution Lab at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, recorded the presence of Microchirita karaketii for the first time in India.
The authors noted that the area where the plant was found remains under constant threat of disturbance due to tourism and other developmental activities. Despite surveying multiple potential locations in the Northeast excluding Tripura, no other populations were found, they said.
The researchers recommend that Microchirita karaketii be considered critically endangered in India.
Microchirita is a genus of annual herbs found exclusively in limestone habitats. Most species in this genus are characterised by their cristate inflorescence structure, where paired flowers are arranged in a single row with the youngest inflorescence developing at the base of the lamina. Additionally, the basal leaf (macro cotyledon) is single and persistent, with subsequent leaves opposite.
According to the study, Microchirita karaketii was found near Kynrem Falls in Meghalaya. Many species from the African violet family, including Microchirita karaketii, grow on wet rocky surfaces along roadsides and often face threats from road construction, widening, and vegetation clearing.
“It is important to recognise the presence of these species and their distribution inside and outside the protected areas of India to conserve the quality of the habitat occupied by them, and therefore the species and different pollinators dependent on them,” the researchers emphasised.
During recent surveys in Meghalaya, they observed a population of Microchirita species that showed morphological similarities with Microchirita karaketii, Microchirita sahyadriensis, and Microchirita bimaculata.
Upon careful examination of protologues and digital images of type specimens, they identified the species as Microchirita karaketii.

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