Sunday, 5 May 2019

Tamarix humboldtiana: A new species of Tamarisk from Hormozgan Province in southern Iran.

Tamarisks, Tamarix spp., are woody shrubs or small trees found in arid regions of Eurasia and Africa, and reaching their maximum diversity in Southwest and Central Asia. They form dense stands, often on saline soils intolerable to other plants, and produce slender woody stems covered with grey-green scaly leaves, 1-2 mm in length. Tamarisks produce large numbers of white or pink flowers, which in turn produce tiny, wind-dispersed seeds, though they also spread vegetatively, with new plants growing from spreading roots or underground stems. The extensive root network enables Tamarisks to survive environmental problems such as fires or droughts, as they are able to tap into deep water sources and regrow from roots even if destroyed by fire.

In a paper published in the journal Willdenowia on 17 April 2019, Hossein Akhani, Nafisah Samadi, and Alireza Noormohammadi, of the Halophytes and C₄ Plants Research Laboratory at the University of Tehran, and Thomas Borsch of the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin at the Freie Universität Berlin, describe a new species of Tamarisk from Hormozgan Province in southern Iran.

The new species is names Tamarix humboldtiana, where 'humboldtiana' honours the great German phytogeographer Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859), on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of his birth. The species was found growing along the Minab River near Deh Gel Kan village, and was easily differentiated from closely related species of Tamarisk by having five petals, though it was established as a separate species by genetic analysis as well.

Tamarix humboldtiana, (B) part of inflorescence with young flowers; (C) part of inflorescence, showing whitish petals and reddish ovary and anthers. Hossein Akhani in Akhani et al. (2019).

Tamarix humboldtiana  forms shrubby plants 1-2 m in height, with reddish bark, which produce pink and white flowers in winter. The species was found on the lower banks of a slightly brackish river, prone to flooding, with other species higher on the bank. Due to the small number of plants found, and the limited and apparently vulnerable nature of their favoured environment, the species is considered to be Critically Endangered under the terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

 Tamarix humboldtiana, (habit and habitat along Minab river; plants grow on the river side and many of them are damaged by flooding. Hossein Akhani in Akhani et al. (2019).

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