Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Nepenthes with No Name



Another pitcher plant discovered, and it’s bigger than the last! A short while ago I reported on Stewart McPherson's (President of the Australian Carnivorous Plant Society) discovery of a new species of Nepenthes from Mount Victoria in the Philippines. It was big and showy, and Stewart called it Nepenthes attenboroughii.

From a remote outcrop not far away from Mount Victoria, another new species has been discovered. It has big pitchers like Nepenthes attenboroughii – up to 35 cm (more than a foot) long.

Stewart estimates the pitchers can hold up to two litres of digestive fluid. Interestingly, the pitchers are all produced down low on the plant and not in the upper parts, quite unlike Nepenthes attenboroughii.

Stewart has come up with a name for the new species but I’m reluctant to use it here. Not because it’s rude and offensive, or inappropriate, or because I fear that by using it its soul will be destroyed.

We taxonomists (plant namers) try to avoid 'publishing' a name until it has been formally and properly described. That way the name isn’t used for the wrong plant or published with errors before the scientific paper goes through peer-review.

It may be that the selected name has wonky Latin, has been used before, or may not even be needed if peers convince the author and editor that this species doesn’t warrant separate status. Anyway, a lot can happen and best not to splash the name around too early. That said, you can find it on the Redfern Natural History site…

Or, you can wait until Stewart publishes volume two of Carnivorous Plants and their Habitats. If anything like the first volume, and his other books (Lost Worlds of the Guiana Highlands is a spectacular book if you are into exotic locations and exotic plants) it will be worth buying for more than the description of Nepenthes whatitsname.

Image: In the spirit of not stealing any of Stewart McPherson's thunder, and images, this is (an entirely irrelevant) picture of a plastic Dodo aboard Stad Amsterdam, the ship that brought Sarah Darwin and a bevy of scientists and philosophers to Sydney recently. Although there is perhaps a potential link between a very rare creature like this pitcher plant and a Dodo.

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