Rediscovery of Paris birmanica from Myanmar

The genus Paris Linnaeus, comprised of 30 species of perennial herbs, are distributed in Eurasia with main distribution areas around Himalayan-Hengduan Mountain

The genus Paris Linnaeus, comprised of 30 species of perennial herbs, are distributed in Eurasia with main distribution areas around Himalayan-Hengduan Mountain. These species are commonly known as chong-lou and are used as traditional medicines in China. Traditionally, the part used as medicine are the thick rhizome of Paris with multifunction including analgesic, haemostatic, anticarcinogen, antineoplastic, and anti-inflammatory.

Paris birmanica, described as Daiswa birmanica by Takhtajan in 1983, was transferred to Paris by Prof. Li Heng in 1997. Prof. Li also noted it as endemic to Myanmar. However, since the type specimens were collected in the 1920s, P. brimanica had not been sighted by botanists, which left the morphological characteristics of this species lacking of detailed description of its rhizome, ovary and ovules.

In December 2016, the joint research team of led by Dr. Xue-Fei Yang and Dr. Yue-Hu Wang from Kunming Institute of Botany and Southeast Biodiversity Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences collected a rhizome of a Paris species as a gift presented by local herbalist Mr. Khay, during a field trip in Taunggyi, Shan State, Myanmar. It was later cultivated, and the morphological characteristics of the materials were described, based on which the species P. brimanica were further confirmed. This is a more-than-a-centurial rediscovery of the same species since its first collection in 1909. More morphological characteristics of the species are supplemented including drooping green petals, an equal number of petals, sepals and stigmas, stamens in two or three whorls (always more than two whorls), 2-3 times as many as sepals (petals), the free portion of connective 0.3-0.6 cm long and every stamen whorl with the free portion of the connective of unequal length, the length of the outermost whorl were decreasing inwardly.

This study was published in Phytotaxa, with the title “Rediscovery and supplemental description of Paris birmanica (Melanthiaceae), a species endemic to Myanmar” 

This work was funded by the Southeast Asia Biodiversity Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Y4ZK111B01) and the International Partnership Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (153631KYSB20160004).

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Feild survey

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Paris birmanica