Notes on Pemphis acidula J.R. Forst. & G. Forst. (Myrtales: Lythraceae) from Andaman Islands, India

M.P. Goutham-Bharathi 1, Titus Immanuel 2, M. Kaliyamoorthy 3, Nitul Kumar Gogoi 4, R. Kiruba Sankar 5 & S. Dam Roy 6

1,2,3,4,5 Fisheries Science Division, Central Island Agricultural Research Institute (ICAR), Post Box No. 181, Garacharma (Post), Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands 744101, India

6 Central Island Agricultural Research Institute (ICAR), Post Box No. 181, Garacharma (Post), Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands 744101, India

1 (corresponding author), 2, 3, 4,,






Editor: N.P. Balakrishnan, Retd. Joint Director, BSI, Coimbatore, India. Date of publication: 26 June 2015 (online & print)


Manuscript details: Ms # o4146 | Received 06 September 2014 | Final received 10 March 2015 | Finally accepted 02 June 2015


Citation: Goutham-Bharathi, M.P., T. Immanuel, M. Kaliyamoorthy, N.K. Gogoi, R.K. Sankar & S.D. Roy (2015). Notes on Pemphis acidula J.R. Forst. & G. Forst. (Myrtales: Lythraceae) from Andaman Islands, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 7(8): 74717474;


Copyright: © Goutham-Bharathi et al. 2015. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. JoTT allows unrestricted use of this article in any medium, reproduction and distribution by providing adequate credit to the authors and the source of publication.


Funding: We found this species as a part of our routine mangrove floristic explorations and was not funded by any agencies.


Competing interests: The authors declare no competing interests.


Acknowledgements: The help rendered by Mr. P.K. Mohammed Shafique, Field Assistant during the surveys is gratefully acknowledged.







Lythraceae is a cosmopolitan family consisting of 25 genera of which three viz., Crenea Aubl. 1775, Pemphis J.R. Forst. & G. Forst. 1776, Sonneratia L.f. 1781 are represented in mangrove communities (Tomlinson 1986). Pemphis is a small coastal tropical genus of shrubs and densely branched small trees, distributed from East Africa through Southeast Asia to northern Australia, Polynesia and northward to Hong Kong (Tomlinson 1986; Geisen et al. 2007). This genus comprises only two species, viz., Pemphis acidula J.R. Forst. & G. Forst. and an endemic Madagascan species, P. madagascariensis (Baker) Koehne. In this account, Pemphis acidula is discussed pertinent to its distribution in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India.

A total of 10 literature reported Pemphis acidula from Andaman and Nicobar Islands, of which, locality data was given in only two, viz., Kurz (1870) and Parkinson (1923) (Table 1). Neither locality nor description has been provided in the literature published subsequent to Parkinson (1923), attributable to the incomplete knowledge of its regional whereabouts. During 2003, P. acidula was reported near Elephant Beach of Havelock (S. Dam Roy & M. Kaliyamoorthy, pers. obs. 2003). They could not locate it in their surveys conducted subsequent to December 2004 tsunami. Recent floristic expeditions revealed the occurrence of P. acidula in Sir William Peel Island of Ritchie’s Archipelago, and its distribution in India is discussed based on the existing literature. Herbarium specimen has been prepared and deposited to the National Botanical Collection of Andaman Nicobar Regional Centre, Botanical Survey of India, Port Blair.



Pemphis acidula J.R. Forst. & G. Forst.

in Char. Gen. Pl. 34. 1775 (Image 1; Fig. 1).

Specimen examined: 31019 (PBL), 25.i.2014, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, South Andaman, Ritchie’s Archipelago, Sir William Peel Island (12003.777’N & 92059.882E), coll. M.P. Goutham Bharathi and Titus Immanuel (Fig. 2).

Small spreading tree, ca. 7m (up to 9.5m) high; Bark light grey to brown; deeply fissured with age; roots adventitious, spreading, exposed with no specialized adaptations. Leaves thick, decussate, narrowly elliptic to lanceolate; densely covered with silky hairs on both surfaces, 1.4–3.5 (2.61) × 0.4–1.5 (0.99) cm with a very short petiole (up to 1mm). Buds densely hairy, young buds greenish; turning pinkish on top as they mature; flowers solitary and axillary, usually hexamerous, pentamerous and tetramerous flowers also present, distylous, floral tube turbinate; pedicel 5–6 mm. Calyx campanulate, base tubular, 5–8 (6.45) mm long, 12-angled (ribbed with 6 pointed triangular lobes with pinkish margin; alternating with 6 thick accessory lobes). Petals white, crumpled, 4.5–6.5 (5.75) × 3–4 (3.78) mm; Style simple and capitate; short styled (1mm) “thrum” flowers with stamens enclosing stigma; Fruits reddish to brownish on maturity, enveloped by persistent calyx, topped by style, dehiscence circumscissile; seeds 1316, angular, with a corky margin or wing.






Ecology: In an inlet at the seafront bordering the mangrove forests on sandy shores (strewn with washed out coral rubble) and on calcareous rocky habitats above the high tide level at the landward margin of mangroves.

Distribution: Rare; South Andaman Islands.





Floral dimorphism exists in Pemphis acidula (Tomlinson 1986; Geisen et al. 2007). Two different morphological forms viz., pin (long styled) and thrum (short styled) flowers occur and in natural populations the proportion of pin to thrum does not differ significantly (Gill & Kyauka 1977). However, according to Geisen et al. (2007), short styled flowers are more common (actually thrum flowers; erroneously termed as pin flowers in their report). Long styled pin flowers could not be observed in our present study. Further, pentamerous and tetramerous flowers were also observed in our surveys in addition to the hexamerous flowers. It is important to note that such plasticity has not been reported elsewhere. Seeds of P. acidula were found to be winged in contrast to the wingless seeds from China (eFloras 2008).





Though categorized as Least Concern by International Union for Conservation of Nature (Ellison et al. 2010; Polidoro et al. 2010), Pemphis acidula has perhaps been overlooked elsewhere in Southeast Asia (Geisen et al. 2007). This study provides locality data of P. acidula in Andaman and Nicobar Islands after a lapse of 91 years and at present, it is found to be rare in these Islands. However, the shortfall of the present study is the inadequate floristic exploration in western coasts of the Islands, which is due to intricate issues associated with accessibility. It is important to note that Parkinson (1923) has recorded P. acidula as a very common species from the west coasts (South Sentinel Island). In addition, it has been reported as a rare species, endemic to Gulf of Mannar (Selvam et al. 2004). Though reported from Andaman and Nicobar Islands and from Gulf of Mannar, P. acidula has not been added to the mangrove flora of India in some important national and international status reports (Blasco 1977; Blasco & Aizpuru 1997; Naskar & Mandal 1999; FAO 2007; Spalding et al. 1997; Mandal & Naskar 2008) and in Mangrove Reference Database Herbarium (Massó i Alemán et al. 2010) and in a recent comparative Indo-Chinese mangrove florisitc study (Yao Yi-feng et al. 2011). However, it was included in the list of Indian mangroves though without locality data in a report on mangroves of the Indian Ocean region (Kathiresan & Rajendran 2005) followed by Kathiresan (2010) in which, only the restricted distribution of P. acidula to coral islands is mentioned.

According to Tomlinson (1986) Pemphis acidula is an intermediate between a strand plant and a mangrove. Among the 10 published literature on mangroves of Andaman and Nicobar Islands where P. acidula is mentioned, two viz., Balachandra (1988) and Devraj (2001), have categorized it as a true mangrove and four viz., Parkinson (1923), Dagar et al. (1991), Debnath (2004) and Singh (2012), have categorized as mangrove associate and no categorization was provided in other literature (Table 1). The classification scheme adopted by Geisen et al. (2007) for classifying the Southeast Asian mangroves was followed in the present study and accordingly, P. acidula is placed herein as a mangrove associate.

Our verbal interactions with regional coastal communities suggest that it is highly favoured as firewood. During our surveys, cutting and use of P. acidula has also been observed, which stresses the significance of adapting immediate location-specific conservation strategies in order to prevent its local extinction. Since P. acidula will not grow anywhere other than the suitable habitat type (Ellison et al. 2010), exploratory surveys particularly in calcareous rocky habitats may authenticate wider distribution of such rare species on the Islands.





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