Thursday, 21 May 2015

Syzygium pyneei: A new species of Myrtle from Mauritius.


The genus Syzygium is the largest within the Myrtle family, Myrtaceae, with over 1200 described species from across the tropical and subtropical regions of the Old World, including fifteen previously described species from Mauritius.

In a paper published in the journal PhytoKeys on 5 February 2015, James Byng of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Aberdeen and the Herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, Vincent Florens of the Department of Biosciences at the University of Mauritius and Cláudia Baider of The Mauritius Herbarium at the Ministry ofAgro-Industry and Food Security of Mauritius, describe a new species of Syzygium from Mondrain Reserve on the island of Mauritius.

The new species is named Syzygium pyneei, in honour of Kersley Pynee, a prominent Mauritian botanist who first noticed the species. Only two specimens are known, both growing on a ridge in the Mondrain Reserve at a height of about 520 m. The specimens were observed to flower in November 2006, reportedly for the first time in about 20 years. A few fruits were observed on the ground in January 2006, but no seedlings observed. The species is distinguished by its flowers, which are relatively large (over 2 cm), pinkish green in colour and grow directly from the trunk of the plant.

Sole recorded flowering event of Syzygium pyneei. Kersley Pynee in Byng et al. (2015).

Syzygium pyneeiis a large shrub reaching 3.5 m in height, with grey or creamy pink bark and waxy oval leaves, 10-15 cm in length and 4.5-9 cm in width. It produces fruit 20 mm in length containing one or two seeds, these being globular if one seed is present or half-moon shaped when there are two.

Syzygium pyneei (A) and (B) bark (C) close-up of branchlet (D) lower leaf surface (E) upper leaf surface. James Byng in Byng et al. (2015).

The Mondrain Reserve is a private reserve which has been fenced to keep out invasive alien Deer and cleared on invasive plants. The area surrounding the reserve has a similar habitat, but is dominated by alien species notably Psidium cattleianum (Peruvian Guavas), a highly invasive species known to be highly detrimental to other Mauritian native plants. A search of this forest revealed no further specimens of Syzygiumpyneei, suggesting that it has been excluded by competition with non-native species. Since only two plants are currently known the species is classified as Critically Endangered under the terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red Listof Threatened Species.

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