Cryptocarya Muthuvariana, a new plant species has been discovered from the Southern Western Ghats, Kerala, India. The species of the genus Cryptocarya has been found in the Edamalakkudy forests in Idukki District, Kerala.
The discovery was made by researchers R. Jagadeesan, former researcher, Department of Botany, University of Kerala; A. Gangaprasad, Professor, Department of Botany, and Director, Centre for Biodiversity Conservation, University of Kerala; and P. Suresh Kumar and Sam P. Mathew of the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI), Palode. The findings have also been published in Annales Botanici Fennici, a scientific journal.
About the Species
‘Cryptocarya muthuvariana’ has been named in honor of a local tribe, Muthuvar. The species was discovered in their neighborhood. It is also the first time, a species has been named after a tribe. The Mathuvar tribe is known to play a significant role in the conservation of forests.
The species resembles C. ferrarsi, a taxon known from India (northeast and Andaman Islands) and Bangladesh. The newly discovered species differs from C. ferrarsi as it has 7–8 (vs. 9–15) pairs of lateral nerves in the leaves and ellipsoid–oblongoid (vs. ovoid-conoid) fruits.
Studies on the species confirmed it to be a distinct species.
Cryptocarya genus belongs to the Lauraceae family. It comprises over 300 species, widely distributed over South America, South Africa, Madagascar, Asia, Australia, and Oceania. The researchers came across the new species while conducting surveys on endemic and threatened species in the Western Ghats.
‘Cryptocarya muthuvariana’ grows to a height of about 10 to 15 metre. It can be identified by its ‘not-too-broad leaves’. The researchers managed to spot only around 10 individual trees of the species in the locality.
According to the researchers, the Western Ghats is home to around nine species of the genus Cryptocarya. The researchers also stressed the need to study aspects related to ecological importance, medicinal value and sustainable use of the new species.
Muthuvar Tribal Community
The Muthuvan tribal community belonged to the Madurai dynasty. They live on the border hill forests of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The word ‘Muthuvar’ denotes the same community in Tamil Nadu. They are found in the Adimali and Devikulam forest regions of the Idukki district. The highest concentration of the tribe is on the Anamudi hills, the highest peak of the Western Ghats.