Saturday 28 July 2012

New species of Ox-eye Bean from Costa Rica and Panama.

Ox-eye Beans (or Dear-eye Beans, or Hamburger Seeds) are Legumes in the genus Mucuna, found throughout the tropics. They get their common names from the three-layered structure of their seeds, which resembles the eye of a large Mammal (or a hamburger). These seeds are sea-beans; they are capable of surviving long periods of immersion in sea-water, enabling them to use ocean currents to colonize new areas; several species of Mucuna are found in both the American and African tropics. The  plants themselves form woody shrubs or lianas (erect woody vines that climb trees to gain access to light in tropical forest canopies). They have large, scented, colourless flowers that are typically pollenated by Bats.

Mucuna beans from a beech in Texas (where the plant is not found). John Batchelder's Beach Beans Blog.

In a paper published in the journal Phytotaxa on 17 July 2012, a team of scientists led by Tânia Moura of the Programa de Pós-graduação em Biologia Vegetal at the Instituto de Biologia at the Universidade Estadual de Campinas in Brazil describe a new species of Mucuna from the tropical forests of Costa Rica and Panama.

Map showing the distribution of sites where the new species of Mucuna was found growing. Moura et al. (2012).

The new plant is named Mucuna monticola, referring to the montane forests where it was found growing. It is a liana-forming species, distinguished from other members of the genus in that the seed-pods are not 'pinched' between the seeds.

Photographs of Mucuna monticola. (A) Inflorescence. (B) Detail of inflorescence. (C) Individual flower. (D) Seed pods. (E) Detail of seed pod. (F) Leaf. Moura et al. (2012).

Line drawings of Mucuna monticola by Ana Lucia Souza. (A) Branchlet with leaf and inflorescence. (B) Flower. (C) Standard. (D) Wings. (E) Keel. (F) Androecium. (G) Gynoecium. (H) Opened calyx. (I) Calyx, lateral view. (J) Fruit. Moura et al. (2012).

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