New Plant Species Discovered on Japan's Yakushima Island

Posted on March 8, 2016

Sciaphila yakushimensis

A new plant species has been discovered on Japan's Yakushima island. The subtropical island is located off the southern coast of Kyushu in Kagoshima prefecture. The plant was discovered by Suetsugu Kenji, a Project Associate Professor at the Kobe University Graduate School of Science.

The name of the new plant species is Sciaphila yakushimensis. The plant was named after its place of discovery. It is a mycoheterotrophic plant, which means it is a parasitic species that relies on fungal hosts instead of using photosynthesis. The researchers say the small 5 centimeter long plant species is closely related to the Sciaphila nana of the Triuridaceae family. The plant and its staminate flowers are pictured above.

Professor Suetsugu says in a statement, "Yakushima receives a lot of attention for its Jomon cedars, but this plant was discovered in an area where deforestation is permitted. The discovery of the Sciaphila yakushimensis, nurtured by the fungi and the nutrient-rich forests in which it grows, should make us reaffirm the value of Yakushima's lowland primeval forests."

A research paper on the newly discovered plant was published in the Journal of Japanese Botany.

Photo: Associate Professor Suetsugu Kenji