Friday, February 26, 2016

A new plant: Coprosma kawaikiniensis

Coprosma is a genus of flowering plants in the Rubiaceae family (better known as coffee family). It is found on islands of the Pacific Ocean such as New Zealand, Hawaii, Borneo, Java, New Guinea. The name Coprosma means "smelling like dung" and refers to the smell given out by the crushed leaves of a few species. 

The fruit of this plant is a non-poisonous juicy berry that was eaten by Māori children, and is also popular with birds. It is said that coffee can be made from the seeds. Another feature is that the leaves contain hollows in the axils of the veins; in these, and on the leaf stipules, nitrogen-fixing bacteria grow. This encourages certain kinds of mites to take up residence. Those feed on and reduce parasitic fungi which attack the leaf.

The new species is named after the location it was found, Kawaikini, the highest peak on Kaua‘i and one of the rainiest places on earth. Literally, Kawaikini means “the multitudinous waters” in Hawaiian.

For the experts: Coprosma kawaikiniensis K.R. Wood, Lorence & Kiehn (Rubiaceae), a rare endemic tree from Kaua‘i, Hawaiian Islands, is described and illustrated along with a previously undescribed endemic plant community, the Dubautia-Sadleria shrubland-fernland (DSSF). The new species differs from Hawai‘i congeners by its combination of opposite, long, elliptic to narrowly elliptic or ovate-elliptic leaves with revolute margins; caducous stipules 7–10 mm long, externally glabrous, densely hirtellous-pilose near the margins of the inner surface; unbranched inflorescences with peduncles 20–28 mm long; flowers 6–8 per cluster; and persistent calyx tube with 4–8 irregular dentate lobes. Known only from the windward slopes and ridges of southeastern Kaua‘i below the Kawaikini summit, Coprosma kawaikiniensis falls into the IUCN Critically Endangered (CR) Red List category.

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