New alpine plant species discovered in Tawang

TAWANG, 23 Feb: A team of researchers from three institutes across India have discovered a new alpine plant species from Tawang district.

The new species belongs to the genus Cremanthodium, commonly known as the Himalayan sunflower, of the family Asteraceae. Cremanthodium is an alpine genus distributed in the Sino-Himalayan region, with a total of 78 recognized species. India was so far represented by 16 species and one subspecies. The new discovery has been named Cremanthodium indicum, after the country of its origin, India.

The discovery was made by Dipankar Borah of Goalpara College, Dr Rajeev Kumar Singh of the Botanical Survey of India and Dr Lobsang Tashi Thungon of the North Eastern Regional Institute of Science and Technology.

First collected in 2017, the species had confused the authors for a long time. Finally, with the help of Dr Magnus Liden (Uppsala Botanic Gardens, Sweden) and subject experts from China, it was concluded in 2019 that it is a new species. Its discovery was eventually published in the international peer-reviewed journal Biodiversitas: Journal of Biological Diversity last Saturday.

Flowering from July to August, the new species is so far endemic to Penga-Teng Tso Lake in Tawang district. Only 270 mature individuals are left within a single location, and it has been assessed as being critically endangered, according to Criteria B1 and B2 of the IUCN (2019) guidelines.

Tawang district is home to some of the most unique assemblages of flowering plants within Arunachal, attracting botanists from all over the world. More than 20 flowering plants have been newly discovered in the recent decade from the district.