Monday 14 October 2013

A new species of Thismia from northwest Yunnan Province, China.

Thismias (Thismiaceae) are a small group of Parasitic Plants found throughout the tropics, with a few temperate species known from North America, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. They parasitize the Mycorrhizal Fungi with which all vascular plants have a relationship, but where other plants exchange sugars produced by photosynthesis for nutrients obtained from the soil by the Fungi, Thismias do not photosynthesize, instead taking both nutrients and sugars from the Fungi and giving nothing in return. In order to do this Thismias must target Fungi in relationships with other Plants (since Fungi do not produce sugars), preventing the Thismia from growing to any great size. Thismias are related to Bat Flowers and Arrowroots; they were formerly classified within the (also parasitic) Burmanniaceae, but it is now recognized that while the two groups are fairly closely related, both are more closely related to some non-parasitic plants than they are to each-other.

In a paper published in the journal Phytotaxa on 30 May 2013, Hong-Qing Li and Yu-Ke Bi of the School of Life Sciences at East China Normal University in Shanghai describe a new species of Thismia from Gongshan County in northwestern Yunnan Province, China.

The new species is placed within the genus Thismia (not all Thismias are Thismias), and given the specific name gongshanensis, after the area where it was discovered. Thismia gongshanensis is a 6-10 cm translucent white plant with a single yellowish flower on each erect stem. It spreads by means of creeping rhizomes (buried stems). The species is known from a single area in a Bamboo forest near the village of Maku in Gongshan County, at an altitude of 2275 m above sea level.

A stand of Thismia gongshanensis. Li & Bi (2013).

Diagrammatic drawing of Thismia gongshanensis showing the underground rhizome as well as the visible flowering plant. Li & Bi (2013).

Follow Sciency Thoughts on Facebook.