A flower documented only as a dried specimen in India has been photographed for the first time in Nambol in Manipur’s Bishnupur district.
The flower, identified as Smooth Uncaria (Uncaria laevigata), was photographed by Dr Kh Shamungou, an environmentalist at his courtyard garden at Nambol, 18km south of Imphal, recently.
“Yes, this may be the first photograph of a living plant of this species in India,” said Tabish Qureshi of one of India’s most popular flower websites www.flowersofindia.net. “I could not find any picture of the living plant on the Internet except one site.”
Botanist Dr Nidhan Singh of IB(PG) College, Panipat, identified the genus, the first part of botanical name of the flower (as Uncaria).
“Nidhan Singh said it is a species of Uncaria,” said Qureshi, a physicist at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. “I then searched and identified it as Uncaria laevigata after comparing it with the known species of East Himalayas.”
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According to www.flowersofindia.net, which currently has a repository of over 6,000 identified flowers, Smooth Uncaria is a large climber with elliptic leaves and prominent hooked spines. Flowers are stalkless, flat-faced, hairless with a narrow tube.
The plant is found in forests at altitudes of 600-1,300m from northeast India to China and south Asia. It flowers during May-November, the website said.
Smooth Uncaria is a commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat diseases of the cardiovascular and central nervous systems like hypertension, light-headedness and numbness.
When contacted, Dr Shamungou said,”I named the flower Ningol Khoidumlei as it looks like Kabok Khoidum (a local snack made of puffed rice with jaggery) and it flowers during the Ningol Chakouba festival season (October-November).”
There are also reports of some people spotting the Smooth Uncaria in Senapati district of Manipur. “I think I have seen it (Smooth Uncaria) at Senapati,”says Homen Kangjam, the farm manager at Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Hengbung.
According to Botanical Survey of India, t present, there are about 44,500 species of plants already identified and classified.
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