Researchers have identified Three new wild balsam (popularly known as ‘Kaashi Thumba’ or ‘Sheema Thumba’). A research was conducted in the Western Ghats of southern Kerala, and they found that the new species belong to the genus Impatiens, which comes under the family Balsaminaceae.
Two of the new species discovered, named after Communist veteran and former Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and the former health minister K.K. Shailaja.
The plants were identified by S. Arya, who is researching under Dr. V S Anilkumar, Associate Professor at Botany department in the University College in Thiruvananthapuram, reported Mathrubhumi News.
The species belonging to the genus Impatiens (family Balsaminaceae), were spotted in the Idukki district during floristic surveys. Plants of this genus are popular as ‘Kashithumba’ in Malayalam.
The plant with whitish-creamy flowers found in the Kallar forest, Thiruvananthapuram district, named Impatiens achudanandanii after Mr. Achuthanandan.
On the other hand, the plant found in the Sankhili forest in south Kerala has been named Impatiens shailajae after Ms. Shailaja.
Moreover, the plant that was spotted in Munnar, Idukki, is named Impatiens Danii, after Mathew Dan, scientist and head, Plant Genetic Resource Division, Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI), Thiruvananthapuram.
The team of researchers which includes VS Anil Kumar and S. Arya of the Department of Botany, University College, Thiruvananthapuram; V. Suresh, Department of Botany, Government Victoria College, Palakkad; G. Govind, Plant Genetic Resource Division, JNTBGRI; and Vishnu Walsan K., Regional Cancer Centre, Thiruvananthapuram has published their research findings in the Biodiversity journal PhytoKeys reported, The Hindu.
Discoveries are named after renowned personalities; however, naming them after living politicians is not a common phenomenon, points out Tiki Rajwi in The Hindu.
Dr. Anil Kumar told The Hindu that the discoveries are honored after these personalities because of political affiliation. The PhytoKeys article said that the former Chief Minister was honored “for his ardent efforts in the conservation of the pristine environment of Western Ghats, especially Mathikettan shola.” A species has been named after Ms. Shailaja for her handling of the “various epidemic and pandemic (COVID-19) situations in the state of Kerala through scientific temper.” Dr. Dan, meanwhile, has been honored for his contributions to systematics and conservation of angiosperms in the Western Ghats.
The research team asserted that since the availability of these plants is so limited in number, all three species can be classified as Critically Endangered (CE), applying the IUCN criteria.
Only three or four populations of the Impatiens achudanandanii at an altitude of 1200 meters and within the same area of 1 km. This species faces threats from wild elephants and landslides as well.
Moreover, Impatiens Danii is a 10-20 cm tall plant with a white flower which sports a yellow blotch on the throat.
Also, Impatiens shailajae belongs to the section Tuberosae and was found along steep, slippery cliffs in the deep forest, highlighted by The Hindu.
The article added that “the genus Impatiens is represented by more than 210 taxa in India. Over 106 species are endemic to the Western Ghats, of which 80% are endangered.”