New flowering plant species discovered in Samar

Published February 11, 2021, 1:55 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

Scientists from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) have discovered a new endemic flowering plant species found in the Samar Island Natural Park.

(Representative photo from Unsplash)

Jiro T. Adorador, Zhereeleen D. Meneses-Adorador, and J. Peter Quakenbush named the new species as Medinilla malabrigoi, in honor of Filipino taxonomist and UPLB professor Pastor L. Malabrigo Jr. for his invaluable contribution to Philippine flora conservation.

The decription of the new species was published in the international scientific journal Phytotaxa on Feb. 10, 2021.

Adorador noted that the “holotype” of the plant was collected on July 13, 2017. “But we have seen it way before, around December 2013, and have been observing and pondering on it being a new species since then,” he told the Manila Bulletin.

“The new species is only known atop several forests over limestone in the municipality of Paranas, Samar, which is within Samar Island Natural Park (SINP),” the journal read.

Scientists said Medinilla malabrigoi is most similar to Medinilla polillensis and Medinilla peltata, but is different in its “erect shrubby habit; sessilem narrowly lanceolate, 3-plinerved leaf with cordate to subcordate base; umbellate inflorescence; and flared, reflexed calyx at anthesis.”

“The observed distribution is sporadic, with a corresponding small population size of mature plants,” the journal further read. 

This means the species is likely “endangered” under the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN conservation status.

However, the group noted that the “remoteness and relatively inaccessible terrain may provide protection in the near future from anthropogenic alterations of habitat, but very limited range makes the species vulnerable to even localized changes in climate, e.g. prolonged drought.”

The study was based on the inventory of herbarium specimens, recent fieldwork, and literature review. 

SINP is the country’s largest contiguous tract of old-growth forest, as well as the largest terrestrial protected area with an area of over 330,000 hectares.