January 28, 2009

Newly discovered Species that you can own

Xanthocyparis vietnamensis recently discovered and classified by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

For those of us who are over-curious, who crave discovery, especially with plants, the news that new species are still being discovered somehow is a bit reassuring. Two new everygreen plants, recently discovered are rather interesting, especially since the specimens discovered we’re rather mature. I am one who periodically o a bit romantic about the nineteenth century century botanical explorers, or even the modern day botanic explorers like Dan Hinkley. (oh, if only.), but the realities of modern life requires many of us to work daily, do home repairs, pay the mortgage, etc, and the fantasy of taking off for six or so weeks to go exploring for new species in China or New Zealand has little chance of becoming a reality. Believe me, I keep trying to get invited on one of these ventures, hopefully one that would require perhaps 2 weeks, but nothing had become a reality, yet.

The discovery of truly new species are not not uncommon in the world of Instects, but major discoveries in the plant world ( trees, for instance), especially those with ornamental or commercial value, is rarer still. Take these two recent ( in the past ten years) discoveries, Xanthocyparis vietnamensis from Vietnam, and Wollemia nobilis, from New South Wales, in Australia.

Xanthocyparis vietnamenis, Vietnamese golden cypress, is a newly discovered,
critically endangered conifer only known thus far from a restricted area of limestone
mountains in Ha Giang province in Vietnam, close to the Chinese border. The already
small population was believed to be threatened by selective logging. Sound familiar? But recent findings suggest that the population exists in a micro ecosystem on the highest ridges of the mountain range, and are in fact somewhat isolated from the dangers of both logging and fire. I know little beyond on-line research regarding the conservation status, but feel free to discover more for yourself here.

This species is being introduced for testing at various Botanic gardens and research centers such as Kew. It has some promise as an ornamental, especially when young, since it has the curious morphological feature of having two different types of foliage, one when immature, and another when mature. It appears that although more tender than others in the Xanthocyparis clan ( Xanthocyparis nootkatensis, the Alaskan Cedar, for instance formally Chamaecyparis nootkatensis), this species does show promise as a container plant in colder areas ( such as USDA zone 5), but this tree should do well in the Pacific North West.

Wollemia nobilis from the Wollemi home page/University of Hamburg.
The other new species is the Wollemi Pine, which can now be found at a few on-line retailers, in the US, try Plant Delights Nursery.

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