Kuepferia species in Himalaya

Submitted by nordicjbotany on 9 September 2016.

Two new varieties of Kuepferia pringlei (Gentianaceae) from SikkimHimalaya

Nordic Journal of Botany: doi: 10.1111/njb.01201

By: Dr. D. Maity, author

The Sikkim area

Sikkim is the “Botanists’ Paradise” due to its great floristic diversity as comprehensively highlighted long ago by Sir J. D. Hooker, the famous British Botanist.  This state is in the phytogeographical regions of Eastern Himalaya and is part of the Himalaya Hotspot of India. Because of different climatic conditions of the Sikkim state, there is a reciprocal relationship between vegetation and the area.

The Sikkim state is now estimated to have more than 4500 species. The total geographical area of Sikkim state is about 7096 sq. km and is bordered by Nepal in the West, Bhutan in the East, Tibet in the North and North-East, and the Darjeeling district of West Bengal in the South.

Various species of Wild Life in this area are protected under different schedules as Biosphere Reserve, National Park and Wild Life Sanctuaries. The Zemu and Lhonak valley is a part of the Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve. The Zemu and Lhonak valley, one of the virgin habitat pockets in this area, is virtually the abode of a rich variety of Rhododendrons, Orchids, Primeroses, Lilies, Begonias, Poppies, Gentians, Saxifragas, Cobra Lilies and several others enthralling members with their horticultural values. Both the areas, Zemu and Lhonak form a continuous valley, named after Zemu Chu and Lhonak Chu respectively. The forest covers a total area of about 828 sq. km. The forest is also exceptionally rich in many endemic and threatened species. This area has a unique geomorphic feature with some of the lofty picturesque and beautiful peaks ranging from 5825 m to 8595 m msl, glaciers, high altitude lakes and is endowed with one of the world’s highest ecosystems. The valley has a short stretch of international boundary with China (Tibet) in the north-west corner of the state.

The mountains run through from north-east to south-west and gradually increase in height towards the north–west. The Zemu Chu river is the main river in this are. It originates from the Zemu glacier, which is the largest glacier of Sikkim. Apart from this, the Naku Chu and Lhonak Chu rivers, along with their numerous tributaries, flow down towards the south-east face and ultimately meet with the River Tista. This area experiences heavy rainfall and receives 2000-5000 mm annually. The famous Green Lake is situated in this region.

Zemu and Lhonak valley contains the 2 major forest types as temperate and alpine.  All these forests constitute a wide range of vegetation to form a real botanical paradise playing an ecological balance as well as providing different biotic components. Most of the areas are naturally managed due to inaccessible terrain and strategic locations.

Vegetation studies      

            Despite huge geo–physical and climatic challenges, me and my research team is engaged for more than one decade to develop a base line data on the floristic composition and its diversity of alpine pasture of Sikkim Himalaya. The valley was historically explored by Smith and Cave (1911) more than a century ago. After this report, apart from fragmentary reports (Lucksom, 2005; Nautiyal et al., 2009; Maity and Maity, 2009; Sharma and Pandit, 2012), the floristic diversity, and the status of endemic and threatened species has not yet been thoroughly evaluated. Simultaneously, anthropogenic factors increase day by day. As a result, several species are known to have become extinct in these valleys in recent years (Maiti, 2000; Nautiyal et al., 2009; Maity and Maiti, 2009). On the other hand, few species have rediscovered after more than a century and few new species also discovered from this region very recently (Dey and Maity, 2014; Maity, 2014). Therefore, there is a great need for intensive and extensive exploration and assessment of the wild plants resources to get the base line data on the floristic wealth of the region. As this region is exceptionally rich in plant diversity as well as endemic and threatened species, this study will be helpful to the conservationists, forest managers, researchers, environmentalists and policy makers in planning future strategies for conservation management of the forest ecosystem, sustainable human livelihood, maintaining food chain in the forest area especially in this part of the eastern Himalaya.  To date nearly 70% of the area is explored.


New discoveries in Kuepferia

Kuepferia Adr.Favre, a genus of the family Gentianaceae commemorating Prof. Philippe Kuepfer, University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland), for his significant contribution to the knowledge of the taxonomy and evolution of the family Gentianaceae, currently comprises 13 species restricted to the south-eastern parts of the Tibetan Plateau and in the Himalayas, including China (S and E Tibet, NW Yunnan, SW Sichuan), India (Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim), North Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal. Alpine pasture of entire Sikkim Himalaya is one of the native places of Gentianaceae members, particularly Gentiana, Kuepferia, Swertia, Lomatogonium.

            Kuepferia, recently segregated from Gentiana, has flowers most strikingly with much reduced and auricle–like plicae. Sikkim plants are usually tiny with small, but beautiful, attractive flowers. The colour of the flowers is both blue and white. In recent years several new taxa have been described from this region including new taxa of Gentiana, Cassiope (Ericaceae).

            Recently, expeditions to the interior valleys of this region were conducted to understand the floristic diversity. As a result of it several new taxa were discovered, som taxa are recorded for the first time in India and several species were rediscovered after a century in India.

             Two new species of Kuepferia, viz. K. pringlei D. Maity & S. K. Dey and K. kanchii D. Maity, S. K. Dey & Adr.Favre are discovered recently from this region. On the last expedition, in the field we immediately identified two “Form” of the former species, which are quite different from the parent populations by either their habit or floral features. Justifiably, we thus described them as new, but part of the new species K. pringlei.    

            These recent discoveries change the entire scenario of the genus in India as well as in the world. Earlier 13 species were recognized under the genus Kuepferia and in India only the species K. infelix was available.  These new taxa bring the number of species recognized in the genus to 14, and the number of Indian species to three with two varieties, viz. K. pringlei var. cavei D. Maity, S. K. Dey & Adr.Favre and K. pringlei var. lhonakensis D. Maity, S. K. Dey & Adr.Favre.






Two new varieties of Kuepferia pringlei (Gentianaceae) from Sikkim Himalaya. Maity, D., Dey, S. K., Favre, A. Nordic J. of Botany 10.1111/njb.01201