Sunday 22 November 2015

Sommera cusucoana: A new species of Sommera from Honduras.

Sommeras are tropical shrubs or small trees belonging to the Rubiaceae (the same group as plants as Coffee) found in tropical rainforests and occasionally dry Oak forests in Central and South America. They typically have large fleshy leaves and small flowers, and produce fleshy berries with numerous seeds.

In a paper published in the journal PhytoKeys on 13 October 2015, David Lorence of the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Kalaheo, Hawaii and Anke Dietzsch and Daniel Kelly of the Department of Botany at Trinity College Dublin, describe a new species of Sommera from the Parque Nacional El Cusuco in Cortes Province, Honduras.

The new species is named Sommera cusucoana, in reference to the park where it was discovered. It has large oval leaves with long red stems, and produces inflorescences each comprising 2-4 small, white tubular flowers, that give rise tolarge, dark red berries.

Sommera cusucoana. Tip of shoot with flower, developing fruits, and leaf pair emerging between pair of stipules. Anke Dietzsch in Lorence et al. (2015).

Sommera cusucoana was described from two small trees found a few meters appart in an area of montane rainforest dominated by tall trees such as Liquidambar styraciflua (American Sweetgum) and Cedrela odorata (Spanish Cedar). The trees werea the bottom of a steep valley at an altitude of 1333 m, with a moist microclimate. The area is somewhat disturbed, being close to campsites and trails used by visitors to the park, as well as natural disturbances such as landslips and tree windfalls. The location is only about 500 m from an area that was clear-felled by loggers in 2010-13 (despite being deep within a national park), and Lorence et al. therefore propose that the species be listed as Critically Endangered under the terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

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