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2018 Top 10 New Species

Image by Andrew Walmsley

Heterotrophic Flower: Magnificent moocherESF Top 10 New Species of 2018

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  • Sciaphila sugimotoi

    Sciaphila sugimotoi, female flower
    Photo credit: Takaomi Sugimoto

  • Sciaphila sugimotoi

    Sciaphila sugimotoi, male flower
    Photo credit: Takaomi Sugimoto

  • Sciaphila sugimotoi

    Sciaphila sugimotoi
    Photo credit: Takaomi Sugimoto

  • Sciaphila sugimotoi

    Sciaphila sugimotoi
    Photo credit: Takaomi Sugimoto

map showing location of Heterotrophic Flower Japan: Ryukyu: Okinawa Prefecture, Ishigaki City, HiraeGoogle Maps view

About the Flower

Sciaphila sugimotoi
Location: Ishigaki Island, Japan

Most plants are autotrophic, capturing solar energy to feed themselves by means of photosynthesis. A few, like the newly discovered S. sugimotoi, are heterotrophic, deriving their sustenance from other organisms. In this case, the plant is symbiotic with a fungus from which it derives nutrition without harm to the partner. In fact, the plant family Triuridaceae to which it belongs consists entirely of such mycoheterotrophs (fungus symbionts). The discovery of any new species of plant in Japan is newsworthy as the flora is well-documented, so such a beautiful new flower is an exciting addition. The delicate S. sugimotoi, just under 4 inches in height (10 cm), appears during short flowering times in September and October, producing small blossoms. The species is considered critically endangered as it has been found in only two locations on the island in humid evergreen broadleaf forest, represented by perhaps 50 plants. As with other fungal symbionts, the species depends on a stable ecosystem for survival. 

Etymology The species is named in honor of Takaomi Sugimoto who collected the first specimens.

Type locality Japan: Ryukyu: Okinawa Pref.: Ishigaki City, Hirae

Type Kyoto University Herbarium

Description Suetsugu, K. and T. Nishioka (2017) Sciaphila sugimotoi (Triuridaceae), a new mycoheterotrophic plant from Ishigaki Island, Japan.  Phytotaxa 314: 279-284


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