Dancing Star Foundation Research Fellow, Dr. Tarun Chhabra, with Colleagues, Discovers Three New Flower Species in Southern India


My tryst with wild balsams began in the late 1990s when a young botanist took me to the western Upper Nilgiris to view the flowering spectacle that unfolds in September. I was fascinated by the shape and colors of these balsams (the genus Impatiens) and the fact that many were endemic to just a few hillsides and were seen nowhere else on planet earth. As I learned more about these plants, I also realized that very little had been documented about many of these species since their Types were collected by the British many decades earlier.

Later, we began to carry out annual botanical expeditions into the western edges of the Nilgiris plateau. In 2006, we were honored to have with us Dr. Michael Tobias, the President of DSF, on a three-day trip. On that hike, he also saw an unidentified balsam that would later be described as a new species – Impatiens taihmushkulni, since it was found growing on the slopes of Mount Taihmushkuln, from where the Toda (the indigenous people of the Upper Nilgiris) God Aihhn rules the afterworld, Amunawdr.

On another journey, we saw a balsam that identified with Impatiens lawsoni. Further studies established that it was actually distinct and went on to be described as Imaptiens kawttyana, after the Toda deity who is believed to reside in the hill Kawtty.

A third balsam looked like Impatiens nilgirica, but we soon realized that it had several distinct morphological characteristics. Even the microscopic analysis of its minute seeds revealed it to be unique. This was named Impatiens nilgirica var. nawttyana after the Toda epithet for the genus Impatiens, viz. nawtty. All three new balsams were recently described in the Nordic Journal of Botany (Dec. 2016) by Tarun Chhabra and Ramneek Singh, a former practicing dentist, and the latter a tea planter by profession. Both are the founding trustees of the Edhkwehlynawd Botanical Refuge (EBR) that is striving to restore degraded habitats in the Nilgiris, along with several other Toda-related activities.

Friends who would like to contribute towards these activities could do so via the Dancing Star Foundation. Tarun is also the author of The Toda Landscape – Explorations in Cultural Ecology (2015 Harvard University Press, Harvard Oriental Series, volume 79).

By Dr. Tarun Chhabra

Jains should not turn their back on Ecology

Dr. Jain also authored the book An Ahimsa Crisis.

Dr. Sulekh C. Jain

Every living being has a strong desire to live and we must respect this in our thoughts and actions…. Lord Mahavir

Jain ontology states that the soul can be found not only in humans but in gusts of wind, sparks of fire, in flowing waters, in plants, in microbes, and in rocks and stones and soil, as well as in insects, reptiles, birds, marine life, and mammals . Read More Jains should not turn their back on Ecology

Poems by Thanasis Maskaleris

(Thanasis in Greece)

On this barren slope, incessantly besieged by winds,
I used to race the bouncing tumbleweeds, down to the pebbled shore.
Or, lying at the water’s edge, I would wait for them to descend
and then, with a soccer-trained kick, I would send them into the sea,
toward new, wave-tossed journeys… Read More Poems by Thanasis Maskaleris


Geoffrey Holland
Geoffrey Holland; photographer, filmmaker, author.

By Geoffrey Holland

Over the years, I have tried to be a student of good planetary stewardship. The ultimate prize is a humanity that functions in harmony with nature. This is what comes when what we take from the biosphere balances out with what we give back to it. Read More “LIVING IN HARMONY WITH NATURE”