Another new species from Brazil today! BPotD reader Gary Zamzow alerted me to the recently-described Spigelia genuflexa, published (as of yesterday) in the peer-reviewed, open-access journal PhytoKeys: Popovkin AV, Mathews KG, Santos JCM, Molina MC, Struwe L (2011). Spigelia genuflexa (Loganiaceae), a new geocarpic species from the Atlantic forest of northeastern Bahia, Brazil. PhytoKeys 6:47-65. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.6.1654.app4 .
First discovered by José Carlos Mendes Santos, a handyman in rural northeastern Bahia of Brazil, these diminutive plants on the property of amateur botanist Alex Popovkin were photographed and collected by Mr. Popovkin over the course of the past couple years. All of today's photographs are courtesy of Alex, via Flickr (his photostream: Alex Popovkin, Bahia, Brazil@Flickr). Original images for today's posting are here, here, and here, and these are part of a much larger set of images by Alex: Spigelia genuflexa.
In the course of trying to determine what species this might be, Alex communicated with taxonomic experts from around the world. The evidence seemed to suggest this was perhaps a new species. With the aid of taxonomists from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos and Rutgers University, the work in establishing it as a new species (through comparisons with previously described species, including phylogenetic analyses), Spigelia genuflexa was recognized and published.
Spigelia genuflexa is unique among the known members of its genus for being geocarpic: (from the article) "During fruit maturation, the basal infructescences bend down towards the ground, depositing the fruit on the surface (and burying it in soft kinds of ground cover, e.g., moss), whereas the upper ones do so slightly but noticeably." I can recall only one other species with this property previously featured on Botany Photo of the Day, Pseudotrillium rivale.
Only a few small populations are known for this species, all restricted to the sandy leaf litter- or moss-covered soils of the Atlantic tabuleiro forest of Bahia. Growing to 25cm (though initially discovered with plants only 3cm tall), it is a short-lived annual.
To read the press release surrounding the discovery, see "Amateur botanists in Brazil discover a genuflexing plant".