"Although many botanists describe numerous species as part of our scientific work, to describe a new genus is perhaps a once in a lifetime experience," said Ulloa. "This mysterious tree was brought to my attention in May of 2007 and involved morphological and molecular work from four researchers from four institutions in three countries to solve and finally show that this was not only a species new to science, but also a new genus of the family Aptandraceae."
Hondurodendron is only known from Parque El Cusuco, located west of San Pedro Sula, Corts Province, in northwestern Honduras. It appears to be widely, but sparsely distributed within the park. It's found mainly as an understory tree, growing under a high forest canopy, also occurring in forests disturbed by natural tree-falls and alongside trails; it grows in well-drained soils, on slopes and ridgetops.
Hondurodendron is known only from scattered populations within a single mountain range, a forested area that is largely surrounded by agriculture lands. Because logging and grazing by livestock occur within the bounds of the national park, the authors assigned the species a provisional conservation status of Endangered following the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines.
Compared with other Central American countries, Honduras is poorly known botanically and has no modern published flora. When the specimens were first discovered, Ulloa and her team compared the plant to the country's checklist and the new Catlogo de las Plantas Vasculares de Honduras (the Catalogue of Vascular Plants of Honduras), but did not find a match nor could assign it to any previously known Central American plant genus or family. A molecular analysis based on four genes ultimately made it possible to detect its relationships accurately and the authors placed the genus in the family Aptandraceae.
|Contact: Julie Bierach|
Missouri Botanical Garden