Sunday 12 March 2017

Brownlowia latifiana: A new species of Mallow from Terengganu State, Peninsular Malaysia.

The genus Brownlowia comprises about 25 species of semi-aquatic trees found along rivers, in swamp forest and mangroves across South and Southeast Asia, with floating fruit which are dispersed by water. Like many mangrove dwelling plants in these areas, many Brownlowia species are threatened by coastal development and rising sea levels.

In a paper published in the journal Phytotaxa on 10 March 2017, Richard Chung and Engkik Soepadmo of the Forest Research Institute Malaysia describe a new species of Brownlowia from the Jerangau Forest Reserve in Terengganu State, Peninsular Malaysia.

The new species is named Brownlowia latifiana, where 'latifiana' in honour of Abd. Latif bin Mohmod, for his efforts on behalf of the Project of Safeguarding the Forest Plant Diversity of Peninsular Malaysia. The species forms small trees reaching about 15 m in height, with grey bark and yellowish brown flowers.

Brownlowia latifiana. (A) Flowering leafy twigs. (B) Fruiting leafy twigs. (C) Inflorescence with young flower buds (left and centre), opened flower (centre) and mature flower bud (right). (D) Inflorescence with opened flowers and mature flower buds. (E) & (F) Infructescences with young fruits. Chung & Soepadmo (2017).

The species is known only from two sites within the buffer zone of the Jerangau Forest Reserve (that is to say the area around the protected area of the reserve in which some activities are banned but the forests are not fully protected), grpwing at altitudes of 65 m and 95 m in undulating and riverine areas of lowland Dipterocarp forest on clay sandy and alluvial soils. One of these areas has been logged since the area was surveyed, and the other is surrounded by Rubber plantations. For this reason Chung and Soepadmo recomend that the species be classified 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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