Single branch of Xanthocyparis vietnamensis with two foliage types. Immature foliage on the left and mature foliage on the right.
Image courtesy of Daniel Harder, Arboretum at UCSC.
Type locality of Xanthocyparis vietnamensis within the limestone mountain system at Bat Dai Son, Ha Giang Province, Quan Ba District, Bat Dai Son Municipality within the Bat Dai Son Provincial Protected Area, Viet Nam.
Image courtesy of Daniel Harder, Arboretum at UCSC
An unusual conifer found in a remote area of northern Vietnam has been identified as a genus and species previously unknown to science. The limestone ridges where the tree grows are among the most botanically rich areas in Vietnam, said Daniel Harder, currently director of the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) Arboretum and a co-discoverer of the new species. The discovery is published in the current issue of the journal Novon.
"Biologists don’t need to contemplate finding life on another planet to imagine making extraordinary discoveries; the fact is, most of the species living on our own planet are still unknown," says Norman Platnick, program director in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) division of environmental biology, which funded the research. "That kind of basic, new knowledge about life, its interrelationships, and how it is distributed across the globe, often has enormous practical implications, guiding the search for new medicines, new pesticides, and even new ways to control alien, invasive species."
Harder spent several years in Vietnam, working to establish an on-going survey of Vietnamese plants organized by the Missouri Botanical Garden, which received the NSF funding that helped enable this research. During that time, he and his collaborators discovered more than 100 new species of plants. But the conifer now known as the golden Vietnamese cypress is by far the most remarkable of those discoveries, he said.
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