Science and Technology News

Discovery of two new Camellia species – Camellia longii and Camellia curryana (Theaceae) from Vietnam

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Two new plant species including Camellia curryana and Camellia longii were discovered from Lam Dong province, Vietnam by scientists from Royal Botanic Gardens - Australia and Centre for Biodiversity and Development – Southern Institute of Ecology under Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology. The description of the two new species was recently published in Nordic Journal of Botany (No. 32:42-50), in February, 2014.

According to the scientists, almost 20% of currently recognised Camellia species occur within the territory of Vietnam. Traditionally, it was believed that the greatest concentration of Vietnamese Camellia species could be found in the northern provinces of the country, with estimates of species numbers varying from 14 to 20. However, new discoveries made in the recent past considerably enlarged the number of Vietnamese Camellia species in the South and clearly indicated that the mountainous areas of the Southern provinces may be as species rich as those of the Northern provinces. The published results on this paper will be a confident data to support above remark.

Additionally, the results of discovery of the two new species are in honour of Mr. Anthony Stephen Curry – a research colleague on Camellia and Dr. Vu Ngoc Long – Director of Southern Institute of Ecology who discovered and collected the first sample.
Camellia longii Orel & Luu sp. nov.
On July 13th 2011, in the exploration of biodiversity condition in the areas of the Hydro Power project Dong Nai 6 and Dong Nai 6-A, Cat Loc forest, Dong Nai Thuong commune, Cat Tien District, Dr. Vu Ngoc Long –Director of Southern Institute of Ecology (Formed vice director of ITB) had been found a strange kind of Camellia, blooming very beautifully in the deep forest. At the first sight, its morphology looked similar to C. Piquetiana. After that, Dr. Luu Hong Truong – Vice Director of Southern Institute of Ecology dissected the collected specimen. Dr. Truong confirmed that this is new plant species and it is different from C. Piquetiana. He was described it and named Camellia longii.

Description: Perennial, small to medium variable, rather sparse, ever-green shrub, 2.5 - 4 m high; Mature leaves irregularly, sparsely and distinctly serrate with serrations oriented abaxially, their margins undulate, 27- 31 cm long, 6 - 9 (-10.5) cm wide; Lamina thin, slightly coriaceous, variable, narrow elliptic to narrow oblong; Peduncle stout, fleshy, shiny, glabrous, slightly falcate, wider distally, dark orange, red, to purple, up to 2 cm long, 4-5 (-6) mm wide with two to four deciduous bracteoles; flowers 4.5 - 5.5 (6) cm long, 3.5 – 5 cm in diameter, distally glabrous, shiny, rigid, tubular; Stamens numerous, in a circular formation that is 2.5 – 3.5 cm in diameter, contained entirely within the flower.

Phenology

The new species was collected in flower in September and November. Fruit capsules or seed were not seen.

Distribution

Camellia longii is known from its type location only, which is situated within the confines of the northern part of the Cat Tien National Park (Cat Loc) in Lam Dong Province, Viet Nam. Th e new species was found in the vicinity of Hamlet 4, Phuoc Cat Commune. Camellia longii occurs sporadically in small groups of mature plants, or as solitary specimens throughout the under-story of the ever-green, mixed (broad leaf and bamboo), tropical forest. C. Longii thrives in relatively rich, wet, but well drained soils and in low light conditions.

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Image of Camellia longii at Cat Loc forest (Photo by Vu Ngoc Long)

Camellia curryana Orel & Luu sp. nov.

Discription: Perennial, small to medium evergreen shrub of variable habit, to 2.5 m high; Petiole up to 10 mm long, 2 – 3 (4) mm wide; Mature leaves regularly serrate at the base, but irregularly serrate to entire towards the apex, 10 – 12 cm long, 4 – 5 (6) cm wide; Lamina thick, coriaceous, elliptic to oval, sometimes asymmetrically falcate, leaf apex variable, acute to obtuse, their base variably obtuse to acute; Adaxial leaf surface glabrous, dark green and shiny, lighter green and dull below; primary vein up to 3 – 4 (5) mm wide proximally, yellowish – green and shiny on both sides, adaxially slightly sunken, abaxially prominent; Flowers almost sessile, unevenly circular in shape, terminal and axillary, lacking scent; Capsules dehiscing into three parts, or longitudinally into two halves; Seed dark brown to black, shiny, laterally partially compressed, variable in size; Each capsule with 3 – 5 seeds.

Distribution

Camellia curryana is known only from the type location which is situated on the foot hills of an unnamed mountain on the Da Lat Plateau. The species’ precise provenance details are withheld for conservation reasons.
Ecology, distribution and conservation status

The area of discovery is covered by dense rainforest and is estimated to measure less than 1 km2. The new species occurs in small and rather scattered groups of plants that form a part of the dense under storey. Camellia curryana thrives in poor, relatively wet, but well drained soils and in low light conditions. The author was not able to find another specimen of C. curryana in any Vietnamese herbarium. Despite repeated searches (in 2004 and 2005) of the area around the type locality, only some 20 adult plants were located. Given this situation, we consider the IUCN category of ‘Critically Endangered’ (CR) to be appropriate (IUCN 2011).

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Image of Camellia curyana at Bidoup- Nui Ba National Park (Photo by Anthony Curry)

Translated by Minh Tam

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