Botanists have recently rediscovered the smilax turbans, a long-lost plant species akin to a well-known Ayurvedic therapeutic plant in the pristine forests of Kurung Kumey district of Arunachal Pradesh, 500 km away from where it was last collected 95 years ago. The plant, an endemic species of Arunachal Pradesh, is a wild counterpart of Chopchini, also known as smilux china, a well-known Ayurvedic therapeutic plant.
The rediscovery of the smilax turbans is a significant scientific milestone and holds immense ecological importance. Ritesh Kumar Choudhary, a leading scientist of the Pune-based Agharkar Research Institute, and his doctoral student Geetika Sukhramani successfully identified the plant blooming in the Kurung Kumey district. The researchers presented detailed descriptions, illustrations, microscopic images, distribution, phenology, field comparisons, and closely related species after the rediscovery to facilitate its identification and eventual conservation.
The findings of the rediscovery could potentially have implications for medicinal research, as various smilax species have been known for their therapeutic properties in traditional medicine. Chopchini, the wild counterpart of the smilax turbans, possesses anti-inflammatory properties and enhances the functioning of the immune system, reproductive health, and gastrointestinal system. It is a highly valuable botanical resource for traditional Ayurvedic therapy.
To protect the rediscovered plant species and ensure its long-term survival, a comprehensive report has been compiled for the Arunachal Pradesh forest department. The report suggests ways of examining and preserving smilax turbans within its indigenous environment while conducting rigorous surveillance of its population dynamics and ecological interrelationships.
There are approximately 262 distinct species of the smilax plant across the globe, with 39 of them growing in India. Smilax turbans first came to light in the early 20th century when it was described by scientists F.T. Wang and Tang based on specimens collected between 1911-1928. However, after its initial identification, the plant seemingly vanished from scientific records and remained hidden from the world for 95 years.
The rediscovery of the smilax turbans serves as a reminder of the mysteries that still lie hidden in the world’s most remote and biodiverse regions. It emphasizes the importance of preserving unique ecosystems and offers scientists the opportunity to learn more about the species. Furthermore, it can lead to the development of new pharmaceuticals, herbal remedies, or agricultural commodities that could benefit human health and livelihoods.
In conclusion, the rediscovery of the long-lost smilax turbans in the forests of Arunachal Pradesh is a significant scientific achievement. It not only contributes to the preservation of biodiversity but also holds potential for medicinal research and the development of innovative healthcare solutions. The findings highlight the importance of exploring remote regions and preserving unique ecosystems to unravel the wonders of nature.