Kottakkal: One more species has been added to the Asian papaya family from the Western Ghats. The new hairy variety of papaya has been discovered from Kotagiri forests in Tamil Nadu. The research team led by senior scientist Dr. K. M. Prabhukumar and director Dr. Indira Balachandran of the Department of Taxonomy at the Centre for Medicinal Plants Research of Arya Vaidya Sala in Kottakkal discovered the new plant.
The plant was first noticed by Dr. Prabhukumar while he was on a research about the rare plants in Nilgiri forests. Dr. Prabhukumar said that the major difference of the new papaya is the hairs on its leaves and stems. It is for the first time this papaya variety is discovered in an Asian forest.
There is no empty space inside the fruit like the ordinary papaya. When the flower is cut vertically, five layers can be seen at the bottom of it whereas only a single layer can be found in ordinary papaya flower. The flowers are light yellow in colour.
Dr. Indira Balachandran said that all the internal structure of the new papaya is different from the ordinary kind. The new plant grows up to a height of 35 feet. The fruits are smaller than ordinary papaya variety and are less than 15 cm in size. It grows at an altitude of 4900-9800 feet.
It has been confirmed that the plant is mountain papaya or highland papaya, scientifically named as Vasconcellea pubescens, which is commonly found in Ecuador. Mountain papaya is one of the major agricultural crops in the South American countries Chile, Columbia, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela.
As mountain papaya is less sweet than normal papaya, it is more suitable for making jam, juice and sweet snacks than consuming directly. This papaya is also a rich source of Vitamin C and A and potassium. The enzyme papain contained in the fruit is used for making medicines.