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The discovery of a lesser-known plant species from the Andaman Islands could help scientists reconstruct the continental connection of the insular island region in the Bay of Bengal with peninsular India and Sri Lanka in the remote past.

During an exploration in the semi evergreen forests of Wright Myo in the southern islands of the Andaman group in 2003, scientists from the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute (JNTBGRI) here came across an interesting species belonging to the Eugenia genus. Only one population comprising about 12 mature plants as undergrowth was discovered from the location. The scientists, led by Sam P. Mathew, collected two seedlings of the species and introduced them at the field gene bank of JNTBGRI.

The growth rate of the live specimens was extremely slow. One of the live plants grew into a small shrub about 2 m high and started flowering regularly since 2015 and eventually bore fruit in 2019. Detailed taxonomical studies carried out by the scientists established the species as Eugenia mooniana, a plant that is hitherto known to occur only in Assam, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.

The finding has been published in the latest issue of Nelumbo, the bulletin of the Botanical Survey of India.

The plant flowers during February and is characterised by profuse, slender branches, slightly crimson leaves and white flowers with elliptic petals.

According to the authors, including Director, JNTBGRI R. Prakashkumar and scientist S.M. Shareef, there are 1,026 common species for the Andaman-Nicobar islands and the Western Ghats of peninsular India. “The fragmented distribution of these floral species demonstrates the geological connection of these widely- separated regions in the remote past,” says the study.

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