A team of researchers has found a rare and endemic species of Nelu (scientific name Strobilanthes rhytisperma) belonging to the Acanthaceae family, in Gulavita North, Walallavita in the Kalutara District.
According to the research team, this flowering plant species was last recorded 50 years ago. Live plant samples of this species had not been reported for a long time. This rare plant species had previously been recorded in the Central Province in 1867 and in the Ranwala Reserve in the Kalutara District in 1971.
Environmental explorer Peshala Pasan Karunarathna had first observed it and had informed Biologist and Plant Taxonomist Himesh Dilruwan Jayasinghe and Wildlife Conservation Department Research Officers Renuka Nilanthi Rajapakse and Nuwan Chathuranga Jayawardena. The studies conducted by them had confirmed the identity of the plant.
According to the researchers, nearly 450 species of Strobilanthus (“Nelu”) plant are reported in the Asian and Australian regions of the world. There are about 33 species of Strobilanthus found in Sri Lanka, and out of them 27 species are endemic. Fourteen of these species are protected by the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance. The Red Data List of 2020 has named this plant as a Critically Endangered species.
The location this rare species was recorded is a small forest patch adjoining Nawalakanda Forest.