A new custard apple from Western Ghats, but you can’t eat it

There’s a new member of the custard apple family, in India’s Western Ghats — sadly it is not edible.

Researchers from the Bangalore-based  Indian Institute of Science

custard applefigure_3_-_copy

A new member from the custard apple family in the Western Ghats Photo credit: Navendu Page, cesess.wordpress.com

 

reported a new species from the custard apple family, Annonaceae. The family consists mostly of tropical, deciduous or evergreen trees and shrubs, its most famous member being the custard apple. Annonaceae  have aromatic barks, leaves, and flowers.

The scientists from IISc’s Centre for Ecological Sciences report that their new species, Miliusa malnadense, named after Malnad, the part of the Western Ghats stretching from Shimoga to Kodagu. They believe the species is endemic to the Western Ghats and is restricted to the high elevation ‘shola’ forests – special habitats found above 1200 m height.  Here the mountain-tops are grassy, with forests in between the gullies and valleys. The grassy mountain tops and forested gullies and valleys alternate to form a mosaic pattern unique to the ‘sholas’.

The new species has a long flower stalks, maroon flowers and a distinctly-shaped female reproductive part or ‘stigma’, says a release from IISc. It is a small evergreen tree with a grayish- brown bark and coppery red young leaves, and flowers from November to May.“Though this plant belongs to the custard apple family, the fruits are not edible and look different”, says Navendu Page, a PhD student at the centre.

Within Magnoliales, Annonaceae is the most species-rich family . And the custard apple,  Miliusa, is distributed across the Austro-Malesian region with most species exhibiting a restricted distribution to certain areas. Species known from India are often highly endemic.

Link to the research abstract in  Phytotaxa : http://biotaxa.org/Phytotaxa/article/view/phytotaxa.245.1.10

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