New pitcher plant species discovered in Luzon
MANILA, Philippines – An unsuspecting insect could get easily lured into the red and stout pitcher found in the Sierra Madre mountains of Aurora, eastern Luzon.
The insect may be diving into its death.
The red meat-eating pitcher plant is a newly-discovered species called Nepenthes barcelonae.
University of Canterbury lecturer and hebarium curator Pieter Pelser, one of the authors of the paper on this discovery, told Rappler that they found this species during their fieldwork on Philippine rafflesia, a parasitic flower known for its pungent odor.
Danilo Tandag of the National Museum of the Philippines, Pelser's collaborator,, thought that this particular species they photographed might be a new one. They sent photos to Martin Cheek of the Kew Gardens in the United Kingdom to confirm this.
Named after Filipino botanist Julie Barcelona who is among those who discovered the species, N. barcelonae has very distinctive pitcher shape and mouth. The first-produced pitchers are red, larger and stouter, while the latter ones are green, more slender.
The discovery of this pitcher plant species highlights the rich biodiversity of the Philippines. According to the database Co's Digital Flora of the Philippines (CDFP), there are more than 50 native pitcher plant species found in the country.
CDFB, named after slain Filipino botanist Leonard Co, is a website Pelser, Barcelona, and other scientists have put up to create an updated database of Philippine native and "naturalized" vascular plant species. Through photo-documentation, they have been able to illustrate more than a third of the 10,000 known plant species in the country.
Meanwhile, France-based botanist Francois Sockhom Mey wrote in his blog about N. barcelonae that many of the species found in the Philippines are under two complex species of pitcher plants. "We have yet to find in the Philippine archipelago species as diverse as the ones we found in Borneo or Sumatra," he wrote.
"This discovery shows how little we know about the immense biodiversity of the Philippine forests," said Pelser.
While Pelser's team wasn't able to determine the actual population of the N. barcelonae, the new discovery was still categorized as "critically endangered" based on international standards.
"[The] ecosystems in which Philippines' natural treasures occur are under threat from habitat destruction, fragmentation and climate change," Pelser told Rappler in an email.
Mey wrote in his blog that is a "good" species, and hoped that its population remain untouched.
Pelser said that it is even more important to protect the forests where the likes of N. barcelonae lives as the species it lives with – animals, plants, and microorganisms – are affected by the same threats this pitcher plant species faces.
He added that while this pitcher plant species could be propagated and cultivated, it would not help other species, nor it will secure the genetic diversity it needs to stay healthy, as N. barcelonae is protected by protecting its habitat. – Rappler.com