Monday 9 February 2015

A new species of Dorstenia from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Dorstenias are tropical herbaceous plants or small shrubs found predominantly in the Africa and the Americas, but with one species from Asia. They are mostly upright succulent plants (i.e. plants that store water in fleshy leaves and stems to help them survive periods of drought) which produce sticky latex to deter consumption. They produce seeds in drupes (fleshy fruit that contain a single large seed) which dry out then expel their seeds explosively.

In a paper published in the journal PhytoKeys on 24 October 2014, Miguel Leal of the Wildlife Conservation Society describes a new and somewhat unusual Dorstenia from the Luama Wildlife Reserve in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The new species is named Dorstenia luamensis, meaning ‘from Luama’ in reference to the locality where it was discovered. While immediately recognisable as a Dorsteniafrom its inflorescence, it has an unusual morphology, lacking succulent leaves and stems and growing hanging from cliffs rather than upright on the ground, and does not produce any latex.

A population of Dorstenia luamensis on a vertical rock face. Leal (2014).

The plants were found only in a few populations in a very limited area, and as such the species is considered to be Endangered under the terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of ThreatenedSpecies.

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