New Plant Species Belonging to Custard Apple Genus Identified in Africa

Posted on September 12, 2016

Scientists have identified nine new plant species belonging to the custard apple genus, Monanthotaxis. Some of the plants went unnoticed on shelves after first being collected decades ago. Modern molecular methods and traditional morphological methods were used to identify the plants as new species.

The plants are confined to tropical Africa and Madagascar. The plants share some similar traits including a climbing habit and bluish-green or glaucous leaves. The bright red fruit of Monanthotaxis komorensis is pictured above and a cream-colored flower from the new species Monanthotaxis couvreurii is pictured below.

PhD student Paul H. Hoekstra, Naturalis Biodiversity Center and Wageningen University is the lead author of the study published in PhytoKeys. Hoekstra says in a statement, "Although for many of the new species good flowering material became available only recently, this does prove the importance of herbaria, and the need for exploring their collections. On the other hand, using DNA techniques we were able to link recently collected sterile collections to several of these poorly collected species, enabling us to improve their conservation assessment."

Five of the newly identified species are classified as critically endangered. Hoekstra adds, "Madagascar, for example, is also an area with many undescribed species, a fact also true for our group of interest, Monanthotaxis, and we anticipate for at least another seven new species to be described from this area."

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