A team of researchers has described a new species of the genus Allium from the Uttarakhand Himalayan region of India.
Allium is one of the largest genera in Amaryllidaceae, a family of herbaceous, mainly perennial and bulbous flowering plants.
The genus has about 1,100 species distributed worldwide, including onion, garlic, scallion, shallot and chives, and naturally occurs in dry seasons in the northern hemisphere and South Africa.
The primary center of evolution for the genus extends across the Irano-Turanian bio-geographical region, and the Mediterranean basin and western North America are considered as the secondary centers of diversity.
The Indian Allium includes over 10 subgenera, 22 sections and 35 to 40 species, excluding cultivated ones, distributed in different eco-geographical areas of the temperate and alpine regions of Himalayas, sharing many species of Chinese origin.
Indian Himalayan region has two distinct centers of Allium diversity, the western Himalaya (over 85% of total diversity) and the eastern Himalaya (6%), covering the alpine-sub temperate region.
The newly-identified species, named Allium negianum, is restricted to the region of the western Himalaya.
It grows in Malari region of Niti valley in Chamoli district and Dharma valley of Pithoragarh district, Uttarakhand, India.
“Allium negianum grows at 3,000 to 4,800 m above sea level and can be found along open grassy meadows, sandy soils along rivers, and streams forming in snow pasture lands along alpine meadows,” said first author Dr. Anjula Pandey from ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources and colleagues.
“The specific name of Allium negianum honors Dr. Kuldeep Singh Negi, an eminent explorer and Allium collector from India.”
Although new to science, the new species has long been known to local communities.
“We heard of phran, jambu, sakua, sungdung, and kacho — different local names for seasoning onions,” the scientists said.
“According to locals, the one from Niti valley was particularly good, even deemed the best on the market.”
“So far only known from the western Himalaya region, Allium negianum might be under pressure from people looking to taste it.”
“We fear that indiscriminate harvest of its leaves and bulbs for seasoning may pose a threat to its wild populations.”
The discovery is reported in a paper in the journal PhytoKeys.
A. Pandey et al. 2021. Allium negianum (Amaryllidaceae): a new species under subg. Rhizirideum from Uttarakhand Himalaya, India. PhytoKeys 183: 77-93; doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.183.65433
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