By Yu Pin Ang
Pink flowers and striped leaves caught the eyes of conservationists trekking up a river in Palawan’s Port Barton way back in 2012.
“I immediately recognized it as a new Begonia species,” recalled Jonah van Beijnen, a Dutch environmentalist who previously helped discover seven other Begonias, plus new dragonfly species in Palawan.
Begonias are flowering plants native to moist tropical climates. Over 2,000 species have been described, many of which are kept as ornamental plants.
“The plants were growing on an exposed crop of limestone and looked absolutely stunning.”
In acknowledgement for his conservation efforts across Palawan and advocacy to raise the Cleopatra’s Needle Mountain Range to protected area status, Begonia beijnenii is named after Jonah van Beijnen who discovered the population.
Begonia beijnenii is the 24th species recognized from the little explored island of Palawan.
It was discovered a little after Begonia cabanillasii, the 23rd species which was published in July, 2020.
Endemic to the municipality of San Vicente in Palawan, it is almost immediately distinctive from other begonia species by being miniature in size and bearing variegated leaves.
Begonia beijnenii was described with the aid of Philippine Taxonomic Initiative (PTI), under the directive of Rene Bustamante, by Yu Pin Ang, Danilo N. Tandang, Rosario Rubite, and he himself.
Palawan’s moist forests host incredible levels of diversity with many species still awaiting discovery.
Sadly, its forests – particularly biodiversity-rich lowland forests – are currently threatened by mining, deforestation and tourism-fueled land conversion.
Just 3% of the country’s lowland forest remains.
PTI races against time and works to help describe new species and catalogue the floral biodiversity of Palawan.
“I’m deeply honored to have the plant named for me. More important than discovering new species is protecting them properly,” says van Beijnen.
“Port Barton hosts some of the last pristine coastal lowland and beach forests in Palawan. We hope this discovery can spur more conservationists to continue protecting the forests of Palawan.”