Dancing Butterflies of the East Himalayas
New Meconopsis Species from East Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh and South Tibet
The region from eastern Bhutan to Arunachal Pradesh of India and the adjacent south-eastern Tibet and northern Myanmar seems to be one of the last frontiers not only for Meconopsis hunting but also for other botanical exploration. Although there remain political difficulties for foreigners to approach the unsettled border between India and China, including the famous Tsari valley with its prominently rich flora, which was visited by Frank Ludlow, George Sherriff, Frank Kingdon-Ward and a few other plant hunters before 1950, some botanical and horticultural treasures in this region have gradually been revealed to recent travellers. As a result of examining the photographs taken by these travellers and our own botanical field research in eastern Bhutan in 2014, accompanied
by subsequent herbarium studies, two species new to science are described. The first, from eastern Bhutan and adjacent Arunachal Pradesh and Tibet, has long been cultivated under the names M. grandis or M. grandis GS600, and has recently been described as M. grandis subsp. orientalis (Grey-Wilson, 2010). It is the national flower of Bhutan. However, the type of M. grandis from Sikkim belongs to a species quite distinct from the eastern populations and the latter is now described as a new species, Meconopsis gakyidiana. The second novelty, Meconopsis merakensis,
is newly described from eastern Bhutan and adjacent Arunachal Pradesh. In the past this species was confused with the closely allied M. prainiana. The two species are isolated geographically, M.prainiana being found only much further to the north-east, in south-eastern Tibet, including the
Tsari valley. The title of this article is based on a comparison made by Frank Kingdon-Ward of Meconopsis flowers with butterflies in Tibet (see below).
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