Plants cheat too: A new species of fungus-parasitizing orchid

Plants usually produce their own nutrients by using sun energy, but not all of them. A new ‘cheater’ species of orchid from Japan, lives off nutrients obtained via a special kind of symbiosis with fungi. The study was published in the open access journal PhytoKeys.

The new orchid species, named Lecanorchis tabugawaensis, is by far not on its own in its strange feeding habits. The so called mycoheterotrophic plants are found among all plant species groups.

Mycoheterotrophy is a term derived from Greek to describe the bizarre symbiotic relationship between some plants and fungi, where the plant gets nutrients parasitizing upon fungi, rather than using photosynthesis.

Considered a kind of a cheating relationship, these plants are sometimes informally referred to as “mycorrhizal cheaters”.

Having long attracted the curiosity of botanists and mycologists, a common feature of most mycoheterotrophic plants is their extreme scarcity and small size. In addition, most species are hiding in the dark understory of forests, only discoverable during the flowering and fruiting period when aboveground organs appear through the leaf litter.

%e3%82%bf%e3%83%96%e3%82%ac%e3%83%af%e3%83%a0%e3%83%a8%e3%82%a6%e3%83%a9%e3%83%b3008Despite it seems like these ‘cheating’ plants have it all easy for themselves, in reality they are highly dependent on the activities of both the fungi and the trees that sustain them. Such a strong dependency makes this fascinating plant group particularly sensitive to environmental destruction.

“Due to the sensitivity of mycoheterotrophic plants it has long been suggested that their species richness provides a useful indicator of the overall floral diversity of forest habitats. A detailed record of the distribution of these vulnerable plants therefore provides crucial data for the conservation of primary forests,” explains leading author Dr Kenji Suetsugu, Kobe University.

Just discovered, the new orchid species has been already assessed with an IUCN status – Critically Endangered. With a distribution restricted to only two locations along the Tabu and Onna Rivers, Yakushima Island, this fungus-eating cheater might need some conservation attention.

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Original Source:

Suetsugu K, Fukunaga H (2016) Lecanorchis tabugawaensis (Orchidaceae, Vanilloideae), a new mycoheterotrophic plant from Yakushima Island, Japan. PhytoKeys 73: 125-135. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.73.10019

Orchid or Demon: Flower of a new species of orchid looks like a devil’s head

A lone and unique population of about 30 reddish to dark violet-maroon orchids grows on the small patch of land between the borders of two Colombian departments. However, its extremely small habitat is far from the only striking thing about the new species.

A closer look at its flowers’ heart reveals what appears to be a devil’s head. Named after its demonic patterns, the new orchid species, Telipogon diabolicus, is described in the open access journal PhytoKeys.

Discovered by Dr Marta Kolanowska and Prof Dariusz Szlachetko, both affiliated with University of Gdansk, Poland, together with Dr Ramiro Medina Trejo, Colombia, the new orchid grows a stem measuring between 5.5 – 9 cm in height.

With its only known habitat restricted to a single population spread across a dwarf montane forest at the border between departments Putumayo and Nariño, southern Colombia, the devilish orchid is assigned as a Critically Endangered species in the IUCN Red List.

Although the curious orchid could be mistakenly taken for a few other species, there are still some easy to see physical traits that make the flower stand out. Apart from the demon’s head hidden at the heart of its colours, the petals themselves are characteristically clawed. This feature has not been found in any other Colombian species of the genus.close-up

“In the most recent catalogue of Colombian plants almost 3600 orchid species representing nearly 250 genera are included,” remind the authors. “However, there is no doubt that hundreds of species occurring in this country remain undiscovered. Only in 2015 over 20 novelties were published based on material collected in Colombia.”

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Original source:

Kolanowska M, Szlachetko DL, Trejo RM (2016) Telipogon diabolicus (Orchidaceae, Oncidiinae), a new species from southern Colombia. PhytoKeys 65: 113-124. doi:10.3897/phytokeys.65.8674

From a bulletin to a modern open access journal: Italian Botanist in Pensoft’s portfolio

Established in the distant 1888, the Italian Botanical Society has gone a long way towards publishing its achievements and research. Originated as a bulletin within an Italian journal, they have been growing ever since to now form a new international journal in its own right. Covering both Italian and international research in botany and mycology, the online open access journal Italian Botanist, published by Pensoft, is now officially launched via its first papers.

Although what was later to become Italian Botanist, published its first issue as an independent journal, called Informatore Botanico Italiano in 1969, the publications were still rather bulletin-style. It consisted of a mixture of administrative and scientific proceedings of the Society, the yearbook of the members, as well as scientific notes.

Nevertheless, such a major transition has been set to change everything fundamentally. Establishing its name, the journal started picking up, so that it was not long before the scientific contributions were prevailing. Impressively, for the Society’s centenary the journal published a celebratory 331-page contribution.

Gradually, its scope was expanded to cover several scientific fields. It hosted several themed columns, including cytotaxonomic contributions on the Italian flora, relevant new floristic records for Italy, conservational issues concerning the Italian flora and mycology.

However, the Directive Council of the Italian Botanical Society has not seemed to be ready to give up on their journal’s evolution. Last year, the botanists decided that they need to transform the journal to an an online, open access journal written in English and called Italian Botanist, in order to boost the scientific value and international visibility of Informatore Botanico Italiano.

italian botanist editorial PR

Under the name Italian Botanist, the journal has now joined Pensoft’s portfolio of peer-reviewed open access journals, all of which take advantage of the advanced technologies and innovations developed by the publisher.

The new journal’s scope ranges from molecular to ecosystem botany and mycology. The geographical coverage of Italian Botanist is specially focused on the Italian territory, but studies from other areas are also welcome.

Staying faithful to its spirit and philosophy, it keeps its column-format, with each issue to contain five columns, namely Chromosome numbers for the Italian flora, Global and Regional IUCN Red List Assessments, Notulae to the Italian flora of algae, briophytes, fungi and lichens, Notulae to the Italian native vascular flora and Notulae to the Italian alien vascular flora.

“Our hope is that this renewed version of the journal will serve the Italian – and foreign – botanical community more efficiently and provide readers worldwide with an easier access to knowledge concerning the Italian flora,” says Italian Botanist‘s Editor-in-Chief Lorenzo Peruzzi.

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Original source:

Peruzzi L, Siniscalco C (2016) From Bullettino della Società Botanica Italiana to Italian Botanist, passing through Informatore Botanico Italiano. A 128 years-long story. Italian Botanist 1: 1-4. doi: 10.3897/italianbotanist.1.8646

Curious new bush species growing ‘bleeding’ fruits named by a US class of 150 7th graders

A class of 150 US 7th graders has helped select a name for a newly discovered plant, which amazes with its fruits that appear to be bleeding once they are cut open. Bucknell University biology professor Chris Martine and life science teacher Bradley Catherman challenged the students to come up with ideas for what to call the new Australian species last spring.

Looking for a way to engage local youngsters in biodiversity science, Martine scheduled a presentation to the collective 7th grade life science classes at Donald H. Eichhorn Middle School. As the day of his assembly approached, he started to think that the best way to generate interest might be to somehow allow the students to participate in the actual research he was doing in his lab at the time. Only, he knew there were few things he could do with 150 13- and 14-year olds sitting in a gymnasium.

“I emailed Mr. Catherman and I said, ‘How about we ask them to name a new species for me?’ explained Martine. “And then I showed up with live plants, preserved specimens, and my notes from the Outback – and we said, ‘Go ahead, tell us what to call this thing.'”

Nearly a year later, Martine and his co-authors, including two undergraduate students, have published the new species in the open access journal PhytoKeys. The news is coming just in time for the National Teacher Appreciation Day, thus giving tribute to Bradley Catherman, a life science teacher who is not afraid to step beyond the standard curriculum and make that extra step to actually engage his students with their studies.

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“I was really impressed with Mr. Catherman’s willingness to work outside of the typical curriculum on this,” said Martine, “In an age when K-12 teachers are increasingly pressured to ‘teach to the test’ he is still willing to think creatively and try something unusual.”

Curiously, the new flowering bush species ‘behaves’ nothing like an ordinary plant. While its unripened fruits are greenish white on the inside when cut open, they start ‘bleeding’ in no more than two minutes. The scientists have even filmed a video short showing how their insides turn bloody scarlet at first, before growing darker, appearing just like clotting blood.

A week after the presentation, each of the students submitted an essay in which they suggested a name, explained the meaning, and translated it into Latin (the language that scientific names are required to be in). Catherman and Martine then selected the two best essays for the inaugural Discovery Prize, a new middle school science award established by Martine and his wife, Rachel.

“As you might imagine, the suggestions ran the gamut from the silly to the scientific,” said Martine. “But for every request to name the species after a favorite food, family pet, or Taylor Swift, there were many suggestions based on the data the students had been provided.”

According to Martine, a number of the students suggested names based on two characteristics of the plant’s berries: the ‘bleeding’ unripened fruits and the dry and bone-hard mature ones. Based on this, the plant will now be known as Solanum ossicruentum, best translated to Australian blood bone tomato, with “ossi” meaning “bone” and “cruentum” meaning “bloody”. The species belongs to the genus of the tomato.mature fruit

The species is native to the sub-arid tropical zone of northern Australia. Martine collected the seeds, he grew his research plants from, during a 2014 expedition to Western Australia and the Northern Territory. However, specimens of the plant had actually been gathered for years before then.

“This is just one of thousands of unnamed Australian species that have been collected by dedicated field biologists and then stored in museums,” said Martine, who studied specimens of the new species in the Northern Territory Herbarium before hunting for it in the bush.

“There is a wealth of museum material just waiting to be given names – and, of course, the organisms represented by those specimens await that recognition, as well as the attention and protection that come with it.”

 

IMG_5089Luckily for Solanum ossicruentum, attention and protection are not too much of an issue.

“Not only is it widespread and fairly abundant,” said Martine, “but one of the healthiest populations occurs in Mirima National Park, a popular and easily-accessible natural area just outside the Western Australian town of Kununurra.”

“Plus, middle schoolers can be tough to deal with. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would mess with this plant, now,” the botanist joked.

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Original source:

Martine CT, Cantley JT, Frawley ES, Butler AR, Jordon-Thaden IE (2016) New functionally dioecious bush tomato from northwestern Australia, Solanum ossicruentum, may utilize “trample burr” dispersal. PhytoKeys 63: 19-29. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.63.7743

Poorly known South African mountain endemic appears to be a very valuable keystone species

Mountain ecosystems are valuable providers of key resources including water. These ecosystems comprise diverse species, some of which appear to be especially important to the ecosystem’s functioning. In poorly studied mountain environments in biodiversity-rich countries, these keystone species can often be overlooked and undervalued.

Macowania is a group of yellow daisy shrubs occurring in the alpine-like regions of the Drakensberg and highlands of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Yemen. Doctoral student Joanne Bentley, University of Cape Town, studied the genetic relationships between the various Macowaniaspecies and relatives during her Masters degree studies. Her research led to the first collection of the poorly known species Macowania revoluta (known also as the Amathole Macowania) in about 40 years.

The story of Macowania revoluta is published in the open access journal PhytoKeys.

The Amathole Macowania appears to be an exceptionally important keystone species. This is because it forms one of the dominant members of the valuable mountain wetland communities and, thus, likely plays a very important role in wetland functioning and soil protection.

It appears to be somewhat tolerant of woody alien species and a valuable pioneer species protecting its native co-habitants. Plants like this one buffer more sensitive plants from sudden changes in environment (such as forestry, alien invasion and fire), and provide an opportunity for the ecosystem to ‘bounce back’.

113693Restricted to the Amathole mountains in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, the Amathole Macowania was first collected sometime before 1870 by the pioneer botanist Peter MacOwan, and was well documented until around 1949. After that, except for one record in 1976, the plant quietly disappeared.

“This was the first Macowania species that we found during our fieldtrip across the greater Drakensberg. We had combed several of the localities where it had been collected before; mostly from several decades ago, some from more than a century ago!” says Joanne Bentley. “We became increasingly doubtful about finding the plant, given the heavily transformed plantation landscape.”

“Ready to throw in the towel, we came across a peaty area on the margins of the forest and decided on one last investigation. We were lucky: it was growing prolifically! It was a very special moment.”

As it often happens, exciting discoveries come in bulk. Joanne’s discovery of the plant in July 2010 was followed by another record in October 2010, by the Curator of the Schonland Herbarium, Tony Dold. In 2014 at least three additional localities were recorded along the popular Amathole Hiking Trail by Dr Ralph Clark, Rhodes University. A further record was added in 2015 by Vathi Zikishe, South African National Biodiversity Institute. The verdict: this is a very localised but patchily abundant species, and an ecologically valuable component of the Amathole flora.

Listed as ‘Data Deficient’ in the Threated Plants List for South Africa, this string of modern records of the species also provided the first opportunity to get an idea of its ecology and abundance, as well as the first photographs.

“The practical value of this species in local land restoration projects still needs to be explored, but the opportunities are exciting,” says Dr Clark. “The discovery that this obscure endemic mountain plant is not only abundant, but is, in fact, fulfilling an extremely important ecological role, highlights the value of detailed mountain biodiversity research in southern Africa.”

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Original source

Clark VR, Bentley J, Dold AP, Zikishe V, Barker NP (2016) The rediscovery of the Great Winterberg endemic Lotononis harveyi B.-E.van Wyk after 147 years, and notes on the poorly known Amathole endemic Macowania revoluta Oliv. (southern Great Escarpment, South Africa). PhytoKeys 62: 1-13. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.62.8348

South African endemic mountain plant gives itself up after 147-year absence

South Africa’s mountains are essential to the economic well-being of the country, providing many goods and services essential for social and economic prosperity. However, the biodiversity value of these mountains is still poorly understood. This is exemplified by the large number of plant species still only known from one or two collections made well over a century ago.

The Great Escarpment Biodiversity Research Programme, led by Prof. Nigel Barker, University of Pretoria, has been systematically documenting plant diversity and endemism along much of the Great Escarpment – southern Africa’s principal mountain system.

“This ‘un-sexy’ foot-slogging research has yielded a number of valuable discoveries and rediscoveries, highlighting the biodiversity value of these mountains,” points lead author Dr Ralph Clark, Rhodes University, South Aftica.

One of these rediscoveries is a plant last seen only by one more person: Mrs Elizabeth Barber, one of South Africa’s finest women botanists of the 19th century. Mrs Barber has been a regular correspondent with Charles Darwin and has provided material of South African plants to numerous institutions in Europe.

“Her discovery – Lotononis harveyi, also known under the common name ‘Mrs Barber’s Beauty’ in her honour, was published in 1862, but unfortunately, as her specimen did not include a date, we do not know the actual year in which she discovered it,” he explains. “What we do know, is that it mysteriously disappeared for at least 147 years, despite attempts to relocate it.”harveyi img2

In 2009, Dr Ralph Clark undertook an extensive collecting trip to the Great Winterberg, where he accidently stumbled across a flowering specimen of ‘Mrs Barber’s Beauty’. It was only in 2014, however, that the plant was properly recognised for what it was, and a second trip was quickly planned.

The results of the second trip included the first photographs and ecological records of this apparently scarce species. Dr Clark’s results have been published in the open access journal PhytoKeys.

“There are currently only six known individuals of this species. The main limiting factors appear to be fire and grazing, the plants only occurring where these two prominent ecological actors have been excluded for some time,” notes Dr Clark.

“However, with much of these mountains still poorly explored by biodiversity scientists, it is possible that additional individuals will come to light. For now the species will be regarded as Critically Endangered.”

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Original source:

Clark VR, Bentley J, Dold AP, Zikishe V, Barker NP (2016) The rediscovery of the Great Winterberg endemic Lotononis harveyi B.-E.van Wyk after 147 years, and notes on the poorly known Amathole endemic Macowania revolutaOliv. (southern Great Escarpment, South Africa). PhytoKeys 62: 1-13. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.62.8348

New species with heart-shaped fruits inspires a love for biodiversity in Hawai’i

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, botanists from Hawai’i have discovered a new species of plant with small heart-shaped fruits. The new species is a member of the coffee family (Rubiaceae) and part of the genus Coprosma, which occurs across many remote islands of the Pacific Ocean. They named the new Hawaiian species after the symbol of love – calling it Coprosma cordicarpa – meaning the Coprosma with heart-shaped fruit. Their research is published in the open-access journal PhytoKeys.

 

The botanists, who discovered C. cordicarpa, describe their finding as the result of a loving adventure with Hawaiian biodiversity. It began when Hawai’i’s State Botanist Dr. Maggie J. Sporck-Koehler noticed the little heart-shaped fruits in the Kanaio Natural Area Reserve on the Island of Maui, while attending a work meeting with the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW).

 

One of the primary mandates of DOFAW is to conserve Hawai’i’s native ecosystems and the species that reside in them. As State Botanist, Sporck-Koehler is most often working on issues relating to rare or State and Federally listed threatened and endangered (T&E) plant species. Gaining a better understanding of native Hawaiian plant conservation status and helping to facilitate conservation efforts is one of the main objectives of the work she does for the State. Therefore, when something extraordinary gets under her nose, such as an unusual Coprosmapopulation, she takes a note and a sample.

 

Sporck-Koehler attempted to identify the species using a key so that she could know what she was looking at. She got to Coprosma foliosa, but was not satisfied. So, she turned to Dr. Jason T. Cantley, who at the time was finishing his PhD research on the genus Coprosma at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa Department of Botany. “I was very taken with it,” Sporck-Koehler told Cantley. “It seemed different than any other [Coprosma] foliosas I’ve seen.”

Image2_CantleyCoprosmacordicarpa

Then, Cantley concluded that the heart-shaped fruits and other characteristics looked different enough that it was worth it to visit specimens at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu, and then to examine the plants themselves. “We needed to get all our ducks in a row, making sure we knew what we were looking for before we flew to Maui,” Cantley says. “Part of that planning was to think about the long-term conservation of Coprosma cordicarpafrom the start. That’s one reason it was necessary to bring Dr. Chau into this project.”

 

Dr. Marian M. Chau is the Seed Conservation Laboratory Manager at Lyon Arboretum’s Hawaiian Rare Plant Program in Honolulu. The Seed Conservation Lab‘s mission is to aid in the prevention of extinction of Hawaiian plant species by maintaining a long-term seed bank collection, to propagate plants for use in approved restoration projects, and to conduct research on seed storage and germination for the Hawaiian flora. The Seed Conservation Lab currently stores over 11 million seeds from about 40% of all Hawaiian native species, with the ultimate goal to represent the entire flora with research and/or long-term germplasm collections. This includes under-described biodiversity, like the heart-shaped fruits of C. cordicarpa.

 

From early on, it was clear that C. cordicarpa was not all that common, as it can only be found on one island. In fact, the botanists determined the new species fell within the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Vulnerable Category (VU) for extinction risk. The VU is the lowest of the three threatened Red List categories, but indicates that C. cordicarpastill faces threats of extinction in the wild. Chau suggested that they collect seeds for long-term germplasm storage at the Seed Conservation Lab.

 

Two field adventures on Maui and many herbarium specimen measurements later, the authors were confident they were looking at a new species. All in all, 609 seeds from 32 plants were collected, which are going to help preserve the biodiversity of this species for many years to come.

 

The authors had a passion for Hawaiian plant biodiversity and conservation well before this project, but it was the discovery of the heart-shaped fruits that brought these three botanists together. With their naming of this new species, they hope to also inspire others with a love for biodiversity that will continue long into the future.

 

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Original source:

Cantley JT, Sporck-Koehler MJ, Chau MM (2016) New and resurrected Hawaiian species of pilo (Coprosma, Rubiaceae) from the island of Maui. PhytoKeys 60: 33-48. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.60.6465

Global Plant Conservation’s Phase 1: The world checklist of hornworts and liverworts

Although it was Charles Darwin himself who more than a century ago voiced his intention to support a complete catalogue of all known plant species, such is yet to be realised. In the present paper, however, an international research team present the first ever worldwide checklist of hornworts and liverworts, covering 7485 species from across 396 genera and representing 92 families from the two phyla.

“This group of generally small-sized plants are an important component of the vegetation in many regions of the world, constituting a major part of the biodiversity in moist forest, wetland, mountain and tundra ecosystems,” says Prof. Lars Soderstrom, the lead investigator from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. The initiative is a part of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation aiming to list the whole known plant kingdom by 2020. Their work is published in the open-access journal PhytoKeys.

Assembling a working digital list of all known plant species is a staple within the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, a framework whose ultimate goal is to halt the loss of plant diversity, which, unfortunately, is already a widely recognised fact. Without such a list, few other targets from the strategy would be met, since there would be a lack of baseline information. There would not be accessible and accurate botanical name information to utilise in researches, conservation and sustainability projects. Eventually, it would be impossible for taxonomists to stand their ground in the atmosphere of real-world politics.

“The present checklist is a result of a lengthy endeavour, started in 2008 at an international meeting hosted by The Field Museum, Chicago, and has blossomed to include over 40 authors and numerous individuals worldwide as well as several funding agencies allowing for a joint community effort to bring this to fruition,” says Dr. von Konrat. Working towards a consensus, together they managed to utilise the existing dataset and centralise nomenclature, taxonomy and geography on a global scale – something that had long been deterring such projects.

Liverworts and hornworts are of critical biological and ecological value, and an important component of the vegetation in many regions of the world. Liverworts, for example, are so widespread that can be found all the way from coastal Antarctica to the tundra of the Northern hemisphere and from the quite dry areas of Australia to the rainforest of Amazonia. Growing almost everywhere, they have turned into a microhabitat for a myriad of organisms such as single-celled eukaryotes, protozoa, and a wide range of invertebrates.

Moreover, both liverworts and hornworts play a vital role in the global carbon budget and carbon dioxide exchange. In the past they have even been used as climate change indicators and could be used as such to track potential signs of global warming in future.

In conclusion, the authors remind that their completion of the world checklist of hornwort and liverwort species is only the first phase towards the ultimate goal – a worldwide list of accepted plant names. Now, that there is a “virtual instrument with a linked environment both internally (e.g., within an article) and externally (GBIF, IPNI, Tropicos, Wikispecies, etc.) that will undoubtedly help accelerate taxonomic research,” the scientific world can set its sights on the next step – creating an easily accessible and generally recognised online platform for the supplementary information. It includes over 25,000 publications, almost 39,000 published names, and the over 700,000 geographical observations and the researchers believe that it will draw the attention and help of ecologists, conservationists, scientists from other disciplines and general interest groups.

“The broader accessibility to the wealth of auxiliary data will help augment monographic and revisionary work for many taxonomic groups, aid in identifying the need for increased floristic and survey work in many regions throughout the world, and have broad implications and applications beyond taxonomic research such as conservation science,” the scientists summarise. “However, such an effort can only be successful if it comes with sustained funding and infrastructure rather than depending on an ad hoc commitment by a few individuals, however dedicated”.

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Original source:

Soderstrom L, Hagborg A, von Konrat M, Bartholomew-Began S, Bell D, Briscoe L, Brown E, Cargill DC, Costa DP, Crandall-Stotler BJ, Cooper ED, Dauphin G, Engel JJ, Feldberg K, Glenny D, Gradstein SR, He X, Heinrichs J, Hentschel J, Ilkiu-Borges AL, Katagiri T, Konstantinova NA, Larraín J, Long DG, Nebel M, Pocs T, Felisa Puche F, Reiner-Drehwald E, Renner MAM, Sass-Gyarmati A, Schafer-Verwimp A, Moragues JGS, Stotler RE, Sukkharak P, Thiers BM, Uribe J, Vana J, Villarreal JC, Wigginton M, Zhang L, Zhu R-L (2016) World checklist of hornworts and liverworts. PhytoKeys 59: 1-821.doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.59.6261

Serendipitous orchid: An unexpected species discovered in Mexican deciduous forests

A new elegant orchid species that grows on rocks in deciduous forests of the Pacific slope of Oaxaca state, Mexico, has finally put an end to a long standing dispute among taxonomists. ‘Sheltered’ under the name of a close relative, the plant has been proved by a research team, led by Dr. Leopardi-Verde, to be different enough for a species of its own. Its distinct features, including shape, size and colors, are discussed and published in the open-access journal PhytoKeys.

When scientists Drs. Carlos L. Leopardi-Verde, Universidad de Colima and Centro de Investigacion Cientifica de Yucatan, German Carnevali and Gustavo A. Romero-Gonzalez, both affiliated with Centro de Investigacion Cientifica de Yucatan and Harvard University Herbaria, stumbled across a beautiful orchid in bloom, they found themselves so surprised by its unique colors and forms that later on they chose the specific epithet inopinatus, meaning “unexpected”.

One of the most distinctive characters of the new plant is the yellow labellum patterned with crimson to reddish brown lines. Typically for its species complex, this orchid’s leaves are wide and leatherlike and the flowers are relatively large, showy, and leathery to fleshy-leathery petals and sepals. The color of the flowers varies from bronze-green with dark purple lines near the base to pale pink and creamy white splashed with reddish-brown spots and lines towards the top.

The plant is between 30 and 42 cm tall, while together with its flowers it reaches between 80 and 90 cm. Each branch of the inflorescence bears from 3 to 8 flowers, which bloom between March and July. Having been recorded only from a few sites on the Pacific slope of Oaxaca state, Mexico, the species appears to be rare.

The authors explain the similarities between the new species and its close relatives. They also discuss the long-held confusion about its taxonomic placement. As a result of the study, a hypothesis about hybridization that has played a role in the evolution and origin of the novelty has been refuted.

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Original source:

Leopardi-Verde CL, Carnevali G, Romero-Gonzalez GA (2016) Encyclia inopinata (Orchidaceae, Laeliinae) a new species from Mexico. PhytoKeys 58: 87-95. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.58.6479