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Why in news:

  • The latest publication of the Botanical Survey of India revealed that the Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalayas are home to more than one-­third of all types of rhododendrons found in India.
  • There are 132 taxa (80 species, 25 subspecies and 27 varieties) of rhododendrons found in India.
  • Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalayas comprise only 0.3% of India’s geographical area but the region is home to one-­third (34%) of all rhododendron types.
  • This highlights the ecological significance of the region as far as an indicator species like rhododendron is concerned.

More findings of the report:

  • Of the 45 taxa documented by the BSI, five are facing a high threat due to anthropological pressures and climate change.
  • Rhododendron edgeworthii, with white campanulate flowers, recorded a huge habitat decline in both Darjeeling and Sikkim.

Rhododendron edgeworthii

  • Rhododendron niveum, with big purple flowers, found in the Lachung area of north Sikkim is facing threats from rampant construction.

Rhododendron niveum

  • Rhododendron baileyi, Rhododendron lindleyi and Rhododendron maddenii are also under threat.
  • Rhododendron, meaning rose tree in Greek, is considered an indicator species for climate change.
  • The flowering season for rhododendrons starts in March and continues till May.
  • However, recently, flowering was found to begin as early as in January for some species.
  • “This is an indication that those areas are getting warmer.
  • The phenology of rhododendrons can be an important indicator of climate change.

More about Rhododendrons:

  • It is a very large genus of about 1,024 species of woody plants in the heath family.
  • They can be either evergreen or deciduous. Most species are native to eastern Asia and the Himalayan region, but smaller numbers occur elsewhere in Asia, and in North America, Europe and Australia.
  • It is the national flower of Nepal, the state flower of Washington and West Virginia in the United States, the state flower of Nagaland in India, the provincial flower of Jiangxi in China and the state tree of Sikkim and Uttarakhand in India.
  • Most species have brightly colored flowers which bloom from late winter through to early summer.
  • Rhododendrons have a prominent place in the country’s botanical history.
  • They were first recorded by Captain Hardwick in Jammu and Kashmir in 1776 where he spotted Rhododendron arboreum.

Syllabus: Prelims; Environment

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