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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Rare 'cobra lily' plant spotted in the wild after 85 years in Nilgiris

There are only a few hundred plants of the genus found in a small area in these hills.

Two species of genus Arisaema, or cobra lily, have been spotted in the wild after 85 years, The Hindu reported on Monday. While one species was found in Thia Shola, the other was spotted in the Pennant Valley forest area. Barely a few hundred plants of the genus can be found within a small area in the Nilgiris.

The plants were found by nature enthusiasts KM Prabhu Kumar and Tarun Chhabra. The find was published in the May 2017 issue of Phytotaxa, a journal on botanical taxonomy. “The first species is attractive by means of its translucent spathe and the latter by its long caudate limb with a filiform thread,” Kumar and Chhabra wrote. Specimens of the plant were last collected by E Barnes in 1932.

“The Toda tribals of the Nilgiris, who know the planet well, have an embroidery motif known as the ‘podwarshk’, which resembles it,” Chhabra told The Hindu. “If I am not mistaken, this is probably the only member of the Arisaema family to have a translucent spathe, and they are very beautiful.” He has written a book called The Toda Landscape.

He said the plants were pretty common at one point but they disappeared in the past decade. According to him, the disappearance of the shola tree patches where the plant is generally found is to be blamed for pushing the cobra lily to near-extinction.

Kumar, who is a senior scientist from Kerala, said the genus could be considered “critically endangered” given the number of plants left in the area. He called for immediate measures to preserve the genus.
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