Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Devil's Claw

The Devil’s Claw
A new addition to Bhutan’s floral family 

A National Biodiversity Centre team spotted the plant that is not endemic but invasive 
In Sonagasa, Punakha, locals hang the fruit from the door, in the form of beads, to ward off bad omens and evil spirits.

The plant that bares this hooked fruit, commonly referred to as the Devil’s Claw or Cat’s Claw, is to be documented as another addition to the country’s flora diversity. 

Scientifically the plant known as Martynia annua (Syn. M. diandra), belongs to the family Martyniaceae, and blooms a white creamy flower. 

A team from National Biodiversity Centre (NBC) at Gewachu, Wangduephodrang, spotted the plant on September 15 at an altitude of 761m above sea level, at latitude N27º12’31” and longitude E90º03’50’’. It was growing below the road near the national work force area, which is used as a dumping site. 

Martynia annua (Devil's Claw)
The fruits, measuring 3cm to 3.5cm, were collected on November 13 last year from Sonagasa in Punakha from a dead and dried plant at an altitude of 1,272m at latitude N27º29’14.6” and longitude E89º54’58.4”.

The plant and the family it comes from is a new record for Bhutan. It is not recorded in The Flora of Bhutan, a project started in 1975, which has so far recorded, in nine volumes, more than 5,600 plant species found in Bhutan. The Orchids of Bhutan was its latest publication that came out in 2003. 

The plant might have been introduced in the country from neighbouring India, when transporting machinery, or through vehicles travelling from India, as the plant was introduced and naturalised in India, according to National Herbarium, NBC. The plant might have also been introduced in the country from the grazing pattern of livestock in the border region in the south. 

The seeds are present inside the claw, and the claw hooks itself to the animals, vehicles and humans to disperse the seeds. 

The plant originated from Central America and was introduced and naturalised in many countries, such as Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Pacific region. The regeneration of native species in these areas is prevented by this plant (Smith, 2002).

Hence, the Claw is considered an invasive species in many countries, such as Australia and Indonesia. In the south Asian region, the species is found in India, China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Myanmar. 

There appears a high possibility of this plant invading the native species growing in Bhutan, as it did in some other countries, but no study has been carried out in Bhutan and only few such plants have been spotted. 

Internet sources describe the fruit as a medicine, which cures scorpion bites, and the leaves as treatment for epilepsy and indigestion. 

The plant specimens and fruits have been deposited at the National Herbarium, NBC.

 This article was contributed to Kuensel Newspaper in Bhutan. 

Edited and published by: Kuensel
25th December, 2012

For the original work, please click the link below:

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