November 5, 2010

New Tree Discovered in Honduras

After two years of close study researchers announce they have discovered a new tree related to the sandalwood species.

The Associate Curator of Missouri Botanical Gardens recently described the discovery of a new tree related to the sandalwood species.  Named the Hondurodendron, it represents a new genus of Aptandraceae, and is endemic to Honduras.

Initial specimens were collected by Dr. Kelly of Trinity College, Dublin, while working on a plot-based field survey in Honduras between 2004 and 2006. Described by the curator at Missouri as a “once in a life experience”, the discovery has taken years of morphological and molecular studies by four researchers from three countries to demonstrate that this was not only a new species but also a new genus of the family Aptanraceae.

 With the tree’s fruits looking rather similar to guava fruits, the Hondurodenron has been know to locals as a “guayaba” tree since long before the Missouri Botanical Gardens’ work began.  Unlike guava, though, the fruit is more like a nut and not at all succulent;  it’s thought to be mainly eaten by small mammals.

The new tree has only been found to date in scattered populations on one particular mountain range which is forested but surrounded by farming territory.

Discovery of previously unknown plants is still quite common.  Missouri scientists – who work in 38 different countries worldwide – published 149 new species in 2009 alone.  Few of these, however, represented new genera.


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