MANIPUR: In a recent publication, the religiously significant Manipuri Kombirei, also known as the Manipuri Iris, has been officially recognized as a new addition to the Indian flora It was originally identified as the Iris Bakeri Wall (Iridaceae) a comprehensive investigation has unveiled its true botanical identity as Iris Laevigata Fisch.
Published in the January edition (Vol 23(1)) of the Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, the report establishes Iris laevigata Fisch as a noteworthy inclusion in the Indian Flora, marking the first official record of its presence in the country.
Historically thriving in Manipur's wetlands, including Lamphelpat and Yaralpat during the 1960s, the Kombirei Iris has unfortunately disappeared from its natural habitat due to factors such as habitat loss and weed invasion. However, a cultural society named Ipathoukok has been diligently maintaining a few hundred plants at the periphery of Lamphelpat.
At present, a few Kombirei plants have been recorded in two Manipuri wetlands-Maibam, Phumlou and Ikkop Pat. This population is believed to have been established at a later date, possibly brought downstream by erosion in the basin.
Apart from its environmental significance, the Manipuri iris has a religious significance, as the Sajibu Cheiraoba is traditionally done during the Manipuri New Year symbolizing the abolition of the caste system The report highlights the habitat sensitivity of the plant and emphasizes the urgent need to prioritize its conservation. The loss of this unique species from Manipur could have serious consequences for the wider Indian flora.
Iris bakery Wall was originally thought to be in the Botanical Survey of India published in 1961. Later research revealed that Iris bakery Wall was a misnamed and nonexistent species Iris laevigata Fisch Royal Botanic Gardens and identified plants this is a valid proof.
They are presently preserved at CSIR-NEIST, Branch Laboratory, Lamphelpat, Imphal, in the ‘ASSAM’ herbarium of the Botanical Survey of India, Eastern Circle, at Shillong. The report concludes by emphasizing the utmost importance of conservation and preservation of this unique plant species to prevent its possible loss from Manipur and contribute to the overall flora of India. The recognition of Manipuri Iris is an important milestone in understanding and protecting India’s rich botanical heritage.