A new species of moss in the genus Bryocrumia has been named after the Malabar region in Kerala from which it was spotted.

Bryocrumia malabarica, discovered in the Malabar wildlife reserve along the Western Ghats, is special, say the botanists responsible for its discovery. This tiny bryophyte is only the second species to be identified in the genus Bryocrumia which has long been considered monotypic – that is, represented by a single species.

The team of botanists who made the discovery were led by Manju C. Nair from Guruvayurappan College in Zamorin, Kozhikode; R. Prakashkumar, director, Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute, Thiruvananthapuram; Prajitha B. of Malabar Botanical Garden and Institute of Plant Sciences, Kozhikode; and WZ Ma from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Yunnan, China. Their findings were published in the latest issue of the journal Acta Botanica Hungarica.

For years it was believed that the genus Bryocrumia included only one species – Bryocrumia vivicolor. Found on the rocks in the streams, B. vivicolor has been spotted in Congo and Uganda in Africa, North and South Carolina in the United States, Yunnan in China, Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka and Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala in India.

Bryocrumia malabarica was found on rocky patches along a stream in the Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary. The plant, which is light green in color, differs from Bryocrumia vivicolor in the structure of its leaves. The plant was first collected in 2014 as part of Ms. Prajitha’s doctoral program on Bryophyte Taxonomy at Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary.

“Bryophytes are a group of plants that play an important role in the ecosystem. They organize the right microclimate in the forest ecosystem and provide suitable microhabitats for many other organisms, especially small insects, ”said Dr Prakashkumar.

Bryocrumia malabarica is the 12th newly described bryophyte species from Kerala in recent years, said Dr Manju, who has studied this unique group of plants for the past two decades. “The current discovery indicates the potential of our habitats to contain new taxa and the need for detailed documentation,” she said.

Dr Ma from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, one of the co-authors of the article, helped confirm the plant as a separate species, Dr Manju said.

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