New plant species discovered in Japan

Tokyo, Feb 21 (IANS) A Japanese researcher has found a new species of parasite plant on the subtropical Japanese island of Yakushima and named it Sciaphila yakushimensis after its place of discovery.

Suetsugu Kenji, a Project Associate Professor at the Kobe University Graduate School of Science, discovered this mycoheterotrophic plant that has abandoned photosynthesis and instead lives as parasite, exploiting fungal hosts for nutrients.

“This plant was discovered in an area where deforestation is permitted. The discovery of the Sciaphila yakushimensis, nurtured by the fungi and the nutrient-rich forests in which it grows, should make us reaffirm the value of Yakushima’s lowland primeval forests,” Kenji said.

However, Sciaphila yakushimensis are small and only appear above ground when they are in flower or fruit, so accurate information on their distribution is limited, Kenji said in his research that was published in the Journal of Japanese Botany.

In October 2015, Kenji, while carrying out a survey of the lowland laurel forests in Yakushima, discovered an unfamiliar mycoheterotrophic species and carried out a detailed examination of the plant’s morphological characteristics.

The results of his examination showed that this five-centimetre-long plant species is closely related to the Sciaphila japonica of the Triuridaceae family but was overall a different species.

He found that the parts above ground are dark purple, the filament of the male (staminate) flower is no higher than the anther, and the style of the female (pistillate) flower is club-shaped with multiple papillae.

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