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| Last Updated:19/07/2019

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Western Ghats yields a new species of Amaranthus (Source: The Hindu 20/05/2019)

                Amaranthus saradhiana has high nutritional value.

                         Amaranthus saradhiana has high nutritional value.  

 

               A team of researchers from three colleges in the State and the Regional Cancer Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, have reported a new edible plant species belonging to the genus Amaranthus from the southern Western Ghats of Kerala.

 

             It was in February 2014 that the team led by V.S. Anilkumar, Head, Department of Botany, Government College, Kasaragod, came across the new species Amaranthus saradhiana on the outskirts of the Kulathupuzha forest range in Kollam district. Critical studies on the collected specimens revealed that the species is related to the widespread Amaranthus spinosus but differs in many characteristics.

 

            The researchers, including Arya S. from University College, Thiruvananthapuram, Vishnu Walsan K., Laboratory of Immunopharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, RCC; and T. Rajesh Kumar, NSS College, Manjeri, carried out detailed taxonomic studies over the next five years to come up with the finding that the specimen is a new species. The plant has been named after Saradhamma Venugopal, mother of Dr. Anilkumar.

 

 Mistaken identity

 

               According to Ms. Arya, it is the first time that an Amaranthus species has been reported from Kerala. The local people at Kulathupuzha were found to be using the plant for food, though mistaking it to be another type of amaranthus more commonly seen. “The species is endowed with high nutritional value, contributed by the rich presence of anthocyanin, a pigment which imparts the purple colour,” she said.

 

A ‘difficult genus’

 

The report of the new species has appeared in the latest volume of Phytotaxa, an international journal on plant taxonomy. Taxonomists generally consider Amaranthus a ‘difficult’ genus because of the very few distinguishing characters among the 60 to 70 species identified so far, the large number of hybrids and the broad geographical distribution, all of which act as factors making characterization difficult.

 

Purple in colour

 

             An annual herb, Amaranthus saradhiana has been found to grow to a height of 80-100 cm and has profuse branches and spines arising from the leaf nodes. The stem is hairy and purple in colour. The plant flowers and fruits during the period from June to December.

 

In dry wastelands

 

             The species occurs in dry wastelands and along the Palode-Kulathupuzha-Thenkasi road sides. It has also been reported from various other districts.