The genus Blakea comprises about 180 species of herbs, shrubs and small trees in the Melastome Familfrom Mexico, Central and South America and the islands of the Caribbean, many of which are epiphytic (live on other plants, typically in the canopy of rainforest trees).
In a paper published in the journal Phytotaxa on 9 November 2016, Diana Fernández-Fernández of the Herbario Nacional del Ecuador at the Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales del Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad, Carmen Ulloa Ulloa, also of the Herbario Nacional del Ecuador at the Museo Ecuatoriano de Ciencias Naturales del Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad and of the Missouri Botanical Garden, and Darin Penneys of the Department of Biology and Marine Biology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, describe a new species of Blakea from the Cordillera del Cóndor mountains of southern Ecuador.
The new species is named Blakea nangaritzana, in reference to the Nangaritza River, the plants having been discovered in the watershed of this river. It is a tree reaching 25 m in height, unusual for th genus. It has leaves up to 13.5 cm in length, with a brownish silver underside, in pairs of unequal size, flowers being white and yellow and growing in bnches of up to four in the leaf axils of the upper branches, these giving rise to pitcher-shaped berries and 5-7 mm in length.
Blakea nangaritzana. Flowering branch and flower (note that anthetic flower appears 5-merous due to spider webs between two petals; 12 stamens can be counted). Juergen Homeier in Fernández-Fernández et al. (2016).
The species has been observed intermittently for about 30 years, but has not previously been formally described. The first material collected from the plant is labled as having come from an 'epiphytic shrub', however Fernández-Fernández et al. regard this as unlikely, since while other members of the genus can be flxible in habit, a large tree also living as an epiphyte seems unlikely.
Blakea nangaritzana. (A) Fruiting branch. (B) Flowering branch. (C) Young fruit with persistent bracts and cross section. (D) Lateral view of stamen. (E) Seeds. Alba Luz Arbeláez Alvarez in Fernández-Fernández et al. (2016).
All of the trees observed were found within an area of 36 square kilometers in the Conservation Area of Los Tepuyes, in a dense wet rainforest located on a snadstone plateau in the Cordillera del Cóndor in Zamora-Chinchipe Province. The plateau extends into neighbouring Peru, creating a potential extension of the habitat of about anouther 20 square kilometers. Nevertheless this is still a very small habitat, and Fernández-Fernández et al. recomend that the species be classified as Endangered under the terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.
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