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Assam, India:

New plant shows crop promise

The fruits of a new species, Smilax sailenii, discovered in 2012, can be developed into a horticultural crop. This species, belonging to the family Smilacaceae, was discovered by Jatindra Sarma, a forest officer working in Karbi Anglong district. It has now been published on in the current issue of Taiwania, a peer review journal.

The species was discovered in 2012 at Digboi reserve forest in Tinsukia district; since then researchers have been looking at the plant in order to find out how it differed from other varieties.

"The fruits are reddish in colour and turn blackish when ripe. The fruits then become sour-sweet,” Sarma told The Telegraph. "It could be developed as a horticultural crop, like grapes, if cultivated properly." Tests, conducted at a laboratory in Bangalore, have confirmed the presence of starch and sugar.

The species is known to be found only in the sub-tropical forests of Assam at an elevation of 300-400 metres. Its geographic range and the quality of habitat are declining continuously. Smilax sailenii is assessed as critically endangered (CR). The species is only known from its type locality Digboi reserve forest, Borjan area of Borjan-Bherjan-Padumoni wildlife sanctuary in Tinsukia district.


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