Rediscovery of Tupistra stoliczkana (Asparagaceae) in northeastern India and the identity of T. ashihoi

Phytotaxa 443 (2): 207–210 Copyright © 2020 Magnolia Press

Rediscovery of Tupistra stoliczkana (Asparagaceae) in northeastern India and the identity of T. ashihoi



1Department of Botany, Rajiv Gandhi University, Rono Hills Doimukh – 791112, Arunachal Pradesh, India; Department of Botany, Goalpara College, Goalpara 783101, Assam, India.
2Otsuka, Hachioji-shi, Tokyo, 192-0352, Japan.
3Komarov Botanical Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Saint Petersburg, RU-197376, Russia.

4Botanical Survey of India, Eastern Regional Centre, Lower New Colony, Laitumkhrah, Shillong – 793 003, Meghalaya, India. 5;

8; 9; *Author for correspondence.


Mainland Southeast Asia, particularly southern China and eastern Indochina, is known as an important centre of diversity for Asparagaceae (Averynov & Tanaka 2012). Tupistra Ker Gawler (1814: 1655) belonging to the subfamily Nolinoideae (Chase et al. 2009) comprises a little more than 30 species (Averyanov et al. 2019). They spread across southern and south-eastern Asia, including Nepal, Bhutan, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, China, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia (Tanaka 2010a). The genus is characterized usually by the leaves tapering into petiole, a relatively large stigma broader than the style, except for the very uncommon species T. siphonantha Tanaka, Vislobokov & Hannon (2018: 32), a stout terete style almost as thick as the ovary and tuberculate (rarely smooth), globular berry-like fruits (Tanaka 2010a). Eight species of Tupistra have been reported for India: T. ashihoi Roy, Odyuo & Averyanov (2017:52), T. clarkei Hooker (1892: 325), T. khasiana Roy, Mao & Averyanov (2017: 257), T. nagarum Odyuo, Roy & Mao (2018:2), T. nutans Wall. ex Lindley (1839: 1223), T. stoliczkana Kurz (1876: 199), T. tupistroides (Kunth 1848: 12) Dandy (1932: 329), and T. leonidii Roy & Mao (2018: 37). Among them, T. ashihoi and T. stoliczkana have an upright flowering stem, whereas the others have a flowering stem curved downwards.

Behali Reserve Forest (BRF) situated in Assam (NE India) is the only left pristine patch of forest within the whole district (Biswanath). Previous studies by Borah et al. (2018, 2019) emphasized the floristic richness in BRF and the urgency for its documentation and conservation. In late October 2017, during a floristic survey in this area, one of the authors (D. Borah) found an unusual species of Tupistra in fruiting growing in the tropical deciduous forests. The next year, in early October 2018, this plant was observed and photographed in flower. Additionally voucher herbarium specimens were prepared for further laboratory studies. More surveys for Asparagaceae members in northeastern India resulted in the encounter of the same plant in a hilly tropical forest of Pasighat Town area (formerly Abor Hills), East Siang District, Arunachal Pradesh in the same month.

According to available data, the plant has an upright flowering stem, and hence it is closer to both T. ashihoi and T. stoliczkana than to the other congeners known from NE India. After having conducted a close taxonomic comparison between our plant, including consultations of the protologues and type specimens (cited below) of T. ashihoi and T. stoliczkana, we found that they did not show any difference, so that T. ashihoi should be synonymized with T. stoliczkana, which holds priority, being published earlier. Tupistra stoliczkana was described by Kurz (1876) based on specimens from the Moulmein District in Myanmar. Later, Dunn (1920) described T. veratrifolia Kurz ex Dunn (1920: 344) based on specimens collected by Kurz (s.n.) from Khasi Hills and Bhramaputra Plains (India) and by Burkill (no. 37281) from outer Abor Hills, E Himalaya (India). Dunn distinguished T. veratrifolia from T. stoliczkana by differences in the length of the perianth tube and of the peduncle relative to the spike. However, Tanaka (2010a) has recently proved that T. veratrifolia is a synonym of T. stoliczkana, as the putative quantitative differences are not significant. The Burkill’s collections of T. stoliczkana (under T. veratrifolia) were made in 1911. As concerns T. ashihoi, its description was based on a cultivated plant of unknown origin. Since our collections were made in 2018, T. stoliczkana was rediscovered in northeastern India after a gap of over one hundred years. On the other hand, under T. stoliczkana, Tanaka (2010a) cited one specimen from Myanmar (A.T. Gage 101, CAL480765) collected in 1919 and three specimens from Thailand collected in 1970 (C.F. van Beusekom & T. Santisuk 2900, L2067068), in 1971 (C.F. van Beusekom et al. 4166, P00214620) and in 1974 (K. Larsen & S.S. Larsen 33806, P00214626). However, all these specimens are in fruit, and hence their source populations need a further confirmation of their identity based on specimens in flower.

Both the protologues of T. stoliczkana and T. veratrifolia are not accompanied by any figure, hence these species have long been insufficiently known. In the present paper, a detailed taxonomic description based on our collection, along with photographic illustrations, and other relevant taxonomic information about the said plant are provided.

Taxonomic treatment

Tupistra stoliczkana Kurz (1876 199). Fig. 1.
Type (lectotype designated by Tanaka 2010a):—MYANMAR. Upper Tenasserim, Moulmein District. Upper Weingo Valley, s.d. F.Stoliczka

s.n. (CAL480740!; isolectotype K000846037!).
= Tupistra veratrifolia Kurz ex Dunn (1920: 344). Type (lectotype designated by Tanaka 2010a):—INDIA. Khasi Hills and Bhramaputra

Plains, s.d. S.Kurz s.n. (CAL480765!; isolectotype K000846035!). Note: ‘Bhramaputra’ is spelt ‘Brahmaputra’ in the protologue.
= Tupistra ashihoi D.K.Roy, N.Odyuo & Aver. (2017: 52), syn. nov. Type:INDIA. Prepared from a plant cultivated in Garden of Botanical

Survey of India, Eastern Regional Centre, Shillong, Meghalaya, 20 December 2016, D.K.Roy 128909 (holotype ASSAM!).

Other specimens examined (excluding those cited in Tanaka 2010a):INDIA. Assam: Sonitpur district, Behali Reserve Forest, 26°53.646’N 93°20.589’E, elev. 105 m, 3 October 2018, D.Borah 85 (HAU 3095). Arunachal Pradesh: East Siang District, Pasighat, 1400m a.s.l., 8 October 2018, D.Borah 100 (HAU 4076).

Description:—Rhizomatous perennial herb. Rhizome long, erect, suberect or ascending, branching, thick and stout, sometimes slightly woody, with many dense nodes, brown, ca. 21 cm long, ca. 3 cm in diameter. Roots whitish to light brown, branching, forming a fibrous network. Stem erect, very short, 1–2 cm tall, covered with leaf sheaths and partially disintegrated fibrous scales remnants. Leaves annually 1, basal, distinctly petiolate; petiole straight, rigid, channelled, 0.5– 1.3 cm in diameter, ca. 41 cm long; leaf blade leathery, dark green, glossy, elliptic to broadly elliptic, acute at apex, gradually tapering to the base, ca. 70 cm long, ca. 16 cm wide. Peduncle axillary, erect, ca. 21 cm long, terete, 3–5 mm in diameter. Inflorescence terminal, many-flowered, ca. 16 cm long, 3 cm in diameter. Floral bracts rhomboid, ca. 4 × 3 mm, greenish. Flowers densely arranged, sessile, dark dirty purplish to almost black, campanulate, broadly opening, ca. 12 mm across, perianth 10–11 mm long, very fleshy, proximally connate for about half of the length, tube 5 mm long, segments ovate, obtuse, 6 mm long. Stamens 6; anthers light dull yellow, 1.8 mm long, sessile, adnate to perianth tube. Ovary ovoid or shortly cylindrical, 2 mm tall; style yellow, 2 mm tall, 1.2 mm wide; stigma yellowish white turning dark purple with age, head-like, 3.5–5 mm across, rough and warty, with 6–7 denticles at the margin. Ripening fruits spherical, 3–3.5 cm across, glabrous, dark creamy white, berry-like, 2-seeded.

Phenology:—Flowering from September to October; fruiting from October to December.
Distribution:—East Himalaya (Assam and Arunachal Pradesh), Myanmar and Thailand.
Habitat:—The plants grow at elevations of 80–300 m a.s.l. The population observed in Behali Reserve Forest,

Assam, comprises more than 100 plants scattered in the area about 10 Km2, whereas around 10 mature plants was found in a single location in Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh. The associated plants were Amischotolype hookeri (Hassk.) H.Hara, Chloranthus elatior Link, Citrus indica Yu. Tanaka, Clerodendrum laevifolium Blume, Coffea benghalensis B.Heyne ex Schult., Dalhousiea bracteata (Roxb.) Graham ex Benth., Dracaena petiolata Hook.f., Gnetum gnemon L., Mycetia nutans (R.Br. ex Kurz) Razafim. & B.Bremer, Sterculia lanceolata var. coccinea (Jack) Phengklai, Tacca integrifolia Ker Gawl. and Tropidia curculigoides Lindl.

Notes:—Among the members of Tupistra reported from NE India, T. stoliczkana is unique in having an upright flowering stem and widely open purple flowers with a 6- or 7-dentate stigma. The young stigmas are pale yellowish to white, but turn dark purple with age. The whitish large stigmas may appeal to some pollen vectors, probably dipteran insects like in the related genus Aspidistra (Vislobokov 2017), and tempt them to enter the floral space under the stigma where anthers are located. Tupistra kressii Tanaka (2010b: 34), endemic to Malay Peninsula, has a light greenish-yellow (or sulphur-coloured) stigma on the day when the flower opens, but the stigma turns dark brown on the next day. Pollination biological studies may shed light on the evolution of various floral features of Tupistra.

Tupistra stoliczkana. A. Habit. B. Rhizome. C. Young inflorescence. D–E. Mature inflorescence. F. Flower in front view. G–H. Dissected flower. I. Fruit.


Authors are grateful to Parixit Kafley, Nature’s Bonyopran for his never-ending inspiration throughout the research work, it is most of his effort that a stable condition in the reserve forest is attained, Suhas Kadam, Divisional Forest Officer, Biswanath District, Department of Forest and Environment, Government of Assam, for his help and cooperation throughout the work and Prof. A.P. Das for his teachings, for which the first author is always indebted.


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