Rare Floral Species Under Threat?
PANAJI: Signs of development activity to lay a road on a lateritic plateau at far-off Kevnem in Rivona has botanists worried. The proposed road passes close to the habitat of Goa's very own sparkly white flowers with brownish-black seeds. In fact, the Dipcadei goanese is so native to the state that it is even named after it.
"Goa University botanists found a plant unknown to science in this village in 2007. They later named it Dipcadei goaense after a two-year-long research," said M K Janarthanam, professor at the Goa Unviersity. "This is the only place anywhere in the world this plant has been seen," Janarthanam added.
Though for the past couple of years during the course of their research they have noticed local boys playing football on the plateau, botanists say that the activity has not affected the species' survival. However, they fear that the proposed road will pose a big threat "The road has been laid not far away from large populations of several hundred individuals (flowers) in the Kevnem area," said a concerned research scholar, Ashis Prabhugaonkar, who visited the area on Sunday.
GU botanists are worried about further destruction of the habitat, which may result in loss of the rare species. "We are contacting the forest department with the details to protect the species in its habitat, though there appears to be no immediate threat," Janarthanam said.
The findings have appeared in a reputed science journal, Kew Bulletin, published by Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew in England.
This species of flora is closely related to another Dipcadei species namely, Dipcadei concanense, but differs mainly in terms of the size of the flower.
"The new species is apparently endemic, because it is known only from the type locality in the foothills of the Western Ghats at Rivona," Janarthanam said.
Botanists from Kew and South Africa have initiated major research in the family, Hyacinthaceae to which this new species belong. Goa University's botany department has studied flowering plant biodiversity for more than 15 years, but has not traced this species anywhere else.
"Intensive searches in Goa could not help in tracing the plant anywhere else," Janarthanam said.
In India, the genus is represented by nine species, including four varieties of which six species are present in Maharashtra alone on lateritic plateaus and table lands. "Otherwise most of the species of the genus have been inhabiting Africa, said the university professor.
Flowering and fruiting occurs between June to August, botanists said. "The plant starts growing from underground bulbs around June, after the rains. Peak flowering occurs at the height of the monsoon," Prabhugaonkar explained.
Usha Yadav, a botanist from Willingdon College, Sangli who collaborated in the study could not be contacted. "A search for possible habitats in other localities will continue during the monsoon as in the recent past," Janarthanam said. The conservation status is as of now labelled as 'criticially endangered', following norms laid down by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), "...as it is limited in its populations and seen in only one locality," he added.
Each individual may last for just over three days and by the end of season, most of the plants in the population are seen with one to four leaves, though plants during peak growing season even sprout seven leaves, he explained.
The authors of the study predict that there may be a special species of moth pollinating this plant. "It will be interesting to look for the pollinator of these species as it may be a moth," Janarthanam said. The authors of the study are also trying to contact some locals in a bid to create awareness about the plant.