Sunday 30 April 2017

Heliconia berguidoi: A new species of Lobster-claw from Panama.

Lobster-claws, Heliconiaceae, are large Banana-like plants closely related to the Bird-of-Paradise Plants, Strelitziaceae, and sometimes known as 'False Bird-of-Paradise Plants'. The family comprises a single genus, Heliconia, found in the American tropics from Mexico through Central America and into the tropical forests of South America, as well as the islands of the Caribbean and Pacific, and parts of Indonesia, and have become naturalised in some other parts of the world, notably Florida, Thailand, and West Africa.

In a paper published in the journal Phytotaxa on 7 February 2017, Rodolfo Flores of the Programa de Maestría en Biología Vegetal at the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí, Carla Black of Volcán in Chiriquí Province, Panama. and Alicia Ibáñez of Gamboa in Colón Province, Panama, describe a new species of Lobster-claw from the Chucantí Private Forest Reserve in Chiriquí Province, Panama.

The new species is named Heliconia berguidoi, where 'berguidoi' in honour of the Panamanian biologist and conservationist Guido Cesar Berguido. The Plants reach 4.5-5.0 m in height, with clusters of up to five stems, each bearing a single large leaf. Flowers are born on pendant stems up to 220 cm in length, with clusters of about 25 red flowers up to 12 cm in length.

(A) Habit of Heliconia berguidoi. (B) Inflorescences touching the ground. Flores et al. (2017).

The new species was found only within the reserve, growing in the Serranía de Majé at an altitude of 800 m. It is possible that the Plant is also found in the surrounding area, though the forests outside the reserve are vulnerable to agriculture, Cattle ranching and logging. As the known range of the species is only four square kilometres, Flores et al. recomend that Heliconia berguidoi 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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