Natural Born Mysteries
October 5, 2016
THE RHEOPHYTE PUZZLE
Until recently, the flora of the interior of Cambodia’s Cardamom region has remained largely uncatalogued. But as Cambodian and international survey teams collaborate, more and more species are coming to light.
Such was the case for Sarcolobus cambogensis, a rheophytic shrub discovered in the Tatai River in the Koh Kong province.
Academy scientists used specimens and images provided by several collectors to determine that the plant was a unique Sarcolobus species similar to but distinct from two other species, Sarcolobus luzonesis and Sarcolobus borneensis, from the Philippines and Borneo, respectively.
Sarcolobus cambogensis differs from the latter two species in its broader leaves, prominent coronas on the stamens and a differently shaped pollen transport apparatus.
“This is the third species of rheophyte described from Sarcolobus,” says Tatyana Livshultz, assistant curator of botany at the Academy. “The three species are geographically isolated from each other. Did the rheophytic habit evolve independently in each place or are these species all descended from a single most-recent common ancestor exclusive to them?”
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