Botanists at the UK-based Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew has discovered a new species of a “possibly extinct” pitcher plant from Mt. Banahaw in Laguna and Quezon provinces.
Kew scientists Martin Cheek and Charles King recently described and assessed the Nepenthes maximoides sp. nov. (Sect. Alatae) in the international scientific journal PeerJ.
In his blog on kew.org, Cheek said they came across the “distinctive” specimen at Kew where it was loaned from the Herbarium at the University of Pennsylvania, and labelled as being collected from the Philippines over 100 years ago.
It was “initially set aside since it seemed to have been mislabelled as from Luzon” and was thought the specimen was Nepenthes maxima Nees found in Indonesia.
“Since it looks so similar to this species (Nepenthes maxima Nees) that it was confused with it,” the journal read.
According to the researchers, Nepenthes maximoides is a “spectacular, large, narrowly funnel-shaped upper pitchers, lids with recurved basal and filiform apical appendages, unlike any other species in the Philippines, closely resemble those of N. maxima (Sect. Regiae) of Sulawesi–New Guinea, likely due to convergent evolution.”
“The number of Nepenthes species recorded from Luzon has increased from two in 2001, to eight in 2020, “all but one of which are endemic to that island, and four of which appear to be point endemics,” the journal read.
The researchers described and assessed Nepenthes maximoides as “critically endangered, possibly extinct, as it appears unrecorded in 110 years.
It is assessed as such since only a single location, represented by a single specimen, is known, with threats, namely habitat degradation and destruction.
“If our deduction is correct that the only known specimen of Nepenthes maximoides derives from Mt. Banahaw, then there is yet some hope that the species might yet have survived extinction since the mountain and its forest are regarded as sacred by the local population. It also has a high level of formal, government protection, designated as a Protected Landscape since 2003,” the scientists said in the journal.
“Nonetheless, although its formal protection has increased since it was designated as a forest reserve in 1921, upgraded to National Park in 1941, at each stage the area has been reduced—probably reflecting the steady clearance of its forest upslope for rice cultivation, which can be seen to this day on Google Earth (viewed Feb. 2020),” they added.