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New species of Isodon discovered in Indian Eastern Himalaya

The scientists at the Botanical Survey of India (BSI), under the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) discovered a new plant species from the Indian Eastern Himalaya. The new plant species of Isodon neorensis (Lamiaceae) was collected from Neora Valley National Park, Darjeeling, West Bengal at an altitude of 2025m. The species is named after the river “Neora”.

Features of the Plant

The new Isoden species is different from its allied species in terms of inflorescence, shape of flower buds and flowers, corolla and filaments colour, indumentum in whole plant, calyces and filaments etc. Further, flowering and fruiting take place between September and November.

In 2016, the scientists collected the species of Isodon during a plant exploration drive in Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalayan region. The Isodon had an interesting flower colour, lax terminal and axillary inflorescences. These were found among the scrub, path sides, and dry hillsides area of the Neora Valley National Park at an elevation of 2000-2740m.

The genus Isodon consists of 21 taxa (19 species & 2 varieties) in India. Most of these species are restricted to eastern and peninsular India. Further, of the 21 taxa, six species are endemic to India. Different tribal communities in western Himalayan regions and northeast Indian states use the genus for various ailments, like acidity, cough, dyspepsia, stomach ache, smallpox, insect bite, and skin diseases.

Habitat

According to the researchers, the plant is also present in other localities of the protected forest area, however, they were only spotted in the Neora Valley National Park area during the exploration drive. Habitat destruction, a surge of invasive species, and the clearing of forest for making path are the possible threats that this species face.

No data on the population of the species is available in other states of India. Therefore, the new species is assessed as “Data Deficient” based on the IUCN categories and criteria (IUCN, 2015).

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