Species in news: Balsams of Eastern Himalayas


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Balsams

Mains level : Biodiversity richness of Eastern Himalayas

  • Between 2010 and 2019, botanists and taxonomists working on Impatiens – a group of plants commonly known as Balsams or jewel-weeds – discovered 23 new species from the eastern Himalayas.

Balsams or Jewel-weeds

  • Consisting of both annual and perennial herbs, balsams are succulent plants with high endemism. Because of their bright beautiful flowers these groups of plants are of prized horticultural significance.
  • The details of the new species, including several new records, have been highlighted in the book, recently published by the Botanical Survey of India.
  • Of the 83 species described, 45 are from Arunachal Pradesh, 24 from Sikkim and 16 species common to both states.

Threats to Balsams

  • Prior to 2010, specimens of Impatiens that had potential of being identified as new species would be collected but the dried up specimens looked identical to the species discovered earlier and their effort yielded no results.
  • Other than high endemism, what sets Impatiens apart is their sensitivity to climate change.
  • Most of the species of Impatiens cannot endure persistent drought or extended exposure to direct sunlight.
  • As a result Impatiens species are typically confined to stream margins, moist roadsides, waterside boulders, near waterfalls and wet forests.
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