A new plant species discovered at Kekar Monying

ITANAGAR, Apr 7: Kekar Monying, a mountain cliff near Babuk village in Siang district and one of the most popular tourist destinations and an important historical place to visit in Arunachal Pradesh, has found a new plant species called Kekar-Monying Begonia.

The discovery has made its way into Phytotaxa, the world’s leading journal in plant taxonomy, as the researchers from three top institutes of the world published a new and wonderful species of the world’s fastest-growing genus (Begonia), following a long and persistent exertion made by the trio.

The article was jointly authored by Momang Taram (a PhD scholar of Rajiv Gandhi University, India), Dipankar Borah (Asstt Professor of Goalpara College, India) and Mark Hughes (Tropical Biodiversity Scientist of the Royal Botanic Gardens, England).

“Begonia is a very complex genus with a lot of sections and 2000 species, and it’s much difficult to identify them and find its closest allies. We almost failed to find the second ally, but reached out only after the editor from China helped us to find it,” Momang said.

The new species finds its extant population in the moist crevices near Kekar Monying. The stone cliff is about 500 metres long and 50 meters high and offers a stunning view of the surrounding area after the hike. Hence, the species has been named Begonia kekarmonyingensis.

This is the second Begonia species they have jointly published after the famous Begonia oyuniae (named by Oyun Dai, the mother of Momang, an enthusiastic Adi plant taxonomist, a story on her was recently published in Mongabay.

“It was in February when Momang called me and tirelessly explained that her camera is malfunctioning and she has found an interesting Begonia, and it must be a new one. I got excited too and took the next bus to Pasighat. Reaching her home, she showed me the plants and very carefully we dissected and took the photographs. The next hard part was describing it and validating its uniqueness. We did the description and were sure of the help from Mark Hughes, a young and great expert on Begonia currently engaged in Royal Botanic Gardens, England. He has reached great heights describing several new Begonias from Southeast Asia and revising the genera for many countries. It was only after he published “Revision of Begonia in Northeast India”, we came to know him.

After contacting him, we shared the conversation and emails for almost six months, and finally communicated to Phytotaxa. The subject editor we were assigned is another expert on Chinese Begonias, and we were glad as this would further validate our observation and would get very close scrutiny from the experts of the nearest border (many plant species have been mistakenly identified as new, which always turns to be a known species from the either side of the border, this issue is also pointed out in our article). After we received the first review with comments from four different reviewers, it almost took us six more months to get back to them with the responses and justifications. And hence it got finally published after one year and two months from the day we took the species in hand.” Borah described.

The common name for this species is Kekar-monying Begonia, which will easily grab the attention for the place, the species and it also would be easy for the locals to understand and pronounce the name. And hopefully they would care for this species, as of their own, he said.

Given the single location and lack of protection for the area, the species is assessed as Vulnerable, IUCN category under criteria VU D1 & D2 (IUCN Standards and Petitions Subcommittee, 2017).

The flowering of this species starts from February to April.

Further, the researchers appealed to the different ministries of the Govt of Arunachal Pradesh to take necessary steps in protection of the new plant species and offer their efforts for keeping the species extant for the generation next, according to a press note shared by Momang.