PUERTO PRINCESA CITY — Three new species of the perennial flowering plant Begonia were recently discovered by a group of botanists inside the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP).
These new species, namely Begonia taraw, hughesii, and tagbanua, belong to a clade (group of organisms with the same ancestor) endemic to Palawan and Borneo, according to a research published on July 24 on the Botanical Studies website (http://www.as-botanicalstudies.com/content/56/1/19).
The three, which were described as “narrowly endemic and rare species,” were added to 14 known Begonia species already recorded in Palawan.
Begonia is a mega-diverse genus of flowering plants prone to generating micro-endemic species, especially on limestone habitats like the ones in PPSRNP environs.
“The limestone habitats in PPSRNP environs support a unique flora,” concluded the study. “The description of [the] three new species from a small area within the park demonstrates how much remains to be discovered there, and the importance of its continued protection.”
Although the species occur very close to one another at altitudes less than 50 meters, the study added they grow in mutually exclusive habitats.
Begonia taraw, named after the local word “taraw” which means karst limestone in indigenous Tagbanua language, is located around the mouth of the underground river, growing tenaciously on the vertical limestone cliffs.
Nearby in karst forest growing in rock crevices is the Begonia hughesii, which was named after Dr. Mark Hughes of the Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh who extensively studied Southeast Asian begonias, including Philippine Begonia.
Begonia tagbanua, named after the indigenous people Tagbanua, meanwhile, grows on clay soil banks inside the forest.
“The fact that [the] three new species were found in such close proximity demonstrates how much remains to be discovered in the PPSRNP, and how even small-scale forest disturbance could result in extinctions,” said the study.
The PPSRNP “contains a spectacular karst limestone landscape and eight different forest formations” that “harbor a very rich flora.”
It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 and voted as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
The researchers include Rosario Rivera Rubite, Llogene De Layola, and Arthur Gregory Virata of Department of Biology, College of Arts and Sciences, University of the Philippines Manila; Mark Hughes, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, United Kingdom; Patrick Blane, CNRS, France;
Kuo-Fang Chung, School of Forestry and Resource Conservation, National Taiwan University; Hsun-An Yang, Yoshiko Kono and Ching-I Peng of Biodiversity Research Center, Academia Sinica in Taiwan; and Grecebio Alejandro, College of Science and Research Center for the Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Santo Tomas.
Read More: http://www.interaksyon.com/article/115153/3-new-species-of-flowering-plant-begonia-discovered-in-palawan