Researchers, Dr RK Choudhary and Geetika Sukhramani from Pune-based Agharkar Research Institute, have made an exciting discovery during their recent exploration in Arunachal Pradesh. They located the elusive Smilax turbans, a wild relative of Chopchini, about 500 km away from its last known habitat.
The plant, an endemic species of Arunachal Pradesh, is a wild counterpart of Chopchini, also known as smilux china well known Ayurvedic therapeutic plant, according to a report in the website of the department of science and technology.
Dr. Ritesh Choudhary, the lead botanist of the expedition, expressed his sheer elation, saying, "Rediscovering Smilax turbans after almost a century is a remarkable achievement for the scientific community. This extraordinary plant which was neglected and underexplored, has long been considered one of the 'Holy Grails' of botanical rediscoveries, and our successful efforts are a testament to the significance of preserving biodiversity and conducting thorough explorations in remote regions."
The plant was last collected in 1928
It was last collected in 1928 by F Kingdon-Ward and the researchers presented detailed description, illustrations, microscopic images, distribution, phenology, field and comparisons with closely related species after the rediscovery to facilitate its identification and eventual conservation.
Smilax turbans first came to light in the early 20th century when it was described by the scientists F T Wang and Tang based on specimens collected between 1911-1928 by the botanists I H Burkill and F Kingdon-Ward during their explorations in Arunachal Pradesh.
After its initial identification, the plant seemingly vanished from the scientific records and remained hidden from the world for long 95 years.
According to the report, the rediscovery is not only a scientific milestone but also holds immense ecological importance. The researchers will now explore the role of this native species in the local ecosystem and its interaction with other flora and fauna.