All of the new species, genera, and orders were either published by Garden scientists in scientific journals or books in 2011 or had been accepted for publication by the end of the year. In many cases, Garden scientists collaborated with researchers at other institutions.
The discoveries highlight developments that are shaping botanists' research in the 21st century not only in the field and in plant collections but also increasingly in the laboratory. In addition, they call attention to the environmental risks that many plant species face.
One of the most intriguing examples of these developments involves the species of palms that are used to make the distinctively wide, conical hats that many Vietnamese wear.
Because of decades of war and isolation, scientists were unable to conduct significant field research in Vietnam for most of the second half of the 20th century. It was not until 2008 that Garden scientist Andrew Henderson, Ph.D., one of the world's leading palm experts, and his Vietnamese colleagues published a scientific description of the main palm species used in the hats. Based on its physical similarity to species in the genus Licuala, they assigned it to that genus, naming the species Licuala centralis (photo, left).
However, analysis of DNA samples that Henderson collected during his field research revealed that the plant's genetic material was not similar to that of other Licuala species. In fact, it and several related species constituted a new genus. Henderson and his collaborator, Christine Bacon of Colorado State University, named the genus Lanonia, from the Vietnamese words for the plantsla non, or "hat palm."
As a result of their work, Licuala centralis has been renamed Lanonia centralis, illustrating the way in which laboratory research has become a critical complement to work in the field and in plant collections.
|Contact: Stevenson Swanson|
The New York Botanical Garden