New plant species discovered in Vietnam

By Pham Huong    August 3, 2017 | 03:14 pm GMT+7

It's taken Vietnamese scientists six years to put the plant on the world map of new species.

The world's foremost journal of botanical systems and biodiversity Phytotaxa has announced the discovery of a new plant species in Vietnam's central province of Quang Nam.

The plant has been given the scientific name Phyllagathis phamhoangii, and is described by the journal as being a acaulescent rhizomatous herb with pink flowers.

The journal also said the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) should class the plant as “vulnerable”.

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Phyllagathis phamhoangii in Quang Nam Province. Photo by Pham Van The

In March 2011, a group of researchers from Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology and their colleagues from Russia and Sri Lanka worked on a project to evaluate the diversity of plant species in primitive forests from Quang Binh to Quang Nam in Vietnam.

During the two-month trip they discovered the plant in Quang Nam.

"We had never seen or heard of a plant species with these features,” researcher Pham Van The said.

The group collected samples of the plant and made careful records of it.

They also looked for information from other countries in the region to see if they could find the same plant, but to no avail.

"We stil could not be so sure if it was a new species,” The said.

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Phyllagathis phamhoangii has pink flowers. Photo by Pham Van The

After doing some research, he discovered that the same plant had been found in Quang Binh in 2008, so The and his team decided to send a file on Phyllagathis phamhoangii to international researchers, but the file was rejected due to the lack of information about the species, which belongs to the Melastomataceae family.

Five years later, The got in contact with a foreign researcher who was specializing in Vietnamese Melastomataceae and had never heard of Phyllagathis phamhoangii. At the same time, a colleague from Sri Lanka confirmed the team's findings: it was a new species.

The team wrote an article about their findings and sent it to Phytotaxa early this year. The article was accepted in June and the journal published it late last month.

In the article, The and his team proposed measures to protect and preserve Phyllagathis phamhoangii as it grows in unprotected forests.

The new plant could hold new genes and medicinal properties, they said.