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Medicinal Plant Rediscovered After 115 Years

Botanists in Arunachal Pradesh have rediscovered a rare medicinal plant after more than a century. //

Two scientists of the Botanical Survey of India spotted the wild flower, Begonia Tessaricarpa, during a routine research work near Ligu village in the northeastern state's Upper Subansari district bordering China.

'Begonia Tessaricarpa was long believed to be extinct but we found the flower blooming in a narrow strip of rocky land during one of our surveys,' Kumar Ambarish, one of the two scientists, told IANS.

The rediscovery of the plant was published in the November issue of Current Science, a reputed Indian journal.

The plant was first listed in scientific literature by British scientist C.B. Clarke in 1879 and 1890 but had not been seen since.

'Everybody thought the plant had become extinct as there were no reports of sighting Rebe (as the plant is locally known) and no recorded use by locals for medicinal purpose,' Ambarish said.

The small plant, measuring about 30 centimetres with two petals and two sepals, was also found growing in a scattered manner in the state's Namdapha National Park in the eastern Changlang district.

'Actually we found the plant first in 2004 and again during another visit in October 2005 in the two places. But it takes time for verification and hence it took a long time to publicize the rediscovery,' Ambarish said.

The tribal people of Arunachal Pradesh have for long used Rebe as a cure for stomach disorder and dehydration. The extracts of the plant were also used to ward off mountain leeches.

'We have collected samples of the plant and it is now growing in two experimental gardens and showing good results,' he said.

Ambarish, along with his co-scientist M. Amadudin, now plans to carry out extensive research on the plant that grows at very high altitudes.

'This is a plant under threat and now we have to do some study to find out more about the herbaceous flower,' Amadudin said.

Arunachal Pradesh is home to a wide variety of medicinal plants and other exotic flora, although wanton destruction of the forest cover had led to many of the rare species being wiped out.

The Texas Bacata, the yew tree, is an example of unregulated exploitation of forest wealth. The bark of this tree is processed to make Taxol, a known treatment of ovarian cancer.


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