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New pipewort species discovered from unique but fragile habitat in India

Washington, Wed, 21 Mar 2012 ANI

Washington, Mar 21 (ANI): Indian botanists have discovered a new species of pipewort in the foot hills of the Western Ghats, India.


Formed of Laterite (a hard rock) outcrops, Western Ghats are a barren land during summer. Yet, as soon as the monsoon rains start, they sprout vibrant plant carpets in blue, pink and white.


This seasonal vegetation is formed mainly by pipeworts and insectivorous plants, such as bladderworts or sundews. The species combinations differ greatly along the Western Ghats and the rich plant growth attracts many birds, butterflies and other insects.


A team of botanists discovered another new species of pipewort from this unique but highly threatened habitat, indicating the importance of such areas.


"It is a treasure trove of unique plants to the botanists, but considered just a wasteland, or a dump by the authorities." said Dr K.P. Rajesh of the Zamorin's Guruvayurappan College (ZGC).


"Many more unique and unknown plants still await discovery in such areas."


The shallow wet areas formed in the rocks, for a short period from June to November, are the home of some of the rarest plants on the planet. These aquatic or semi-aquatic plants soon set seeds, and dry up before the summer season.


The seeds remain in the soil, waiting for the next rains to wake them up. The flat-topped hills are one of the most threatened habitats on Earth, under severe pressure from population growth.


The Laterite areas are being destroyed or converted into infrastructure - sites for mining, waste dumping and similar. Uncontrolled tourism is also causing heavy damage - beyond repair - to this fragile system.


The new discovery increases the conservation potential of the area.


"It is high time to take urgent steps to conserve this fragile habitat," said Dr. C.N. Manju.


The study has been published in the open access journal PhytoKeys. (ANI)


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