Discovery of a new begonia species, begonia cangyuanensis, in Yunnan’s biodiversity hotspot

Begonias, known for their impressive size and rapid growth, rank among the most abundant genera of flowering plants. The region encompassing Yunnan Province in China and its neighboring countries (Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar) is renowned for hosting a remarkable array of begonia species.

In 2022, a group of researchers from the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) belonging to the Chinese Academy of Sciences conducted botanical surveys in the China-Myanmar transboundary area of Yunnan. During their expedition, they stumbled upon an unfamiliar begonia species within the Nangunhe National Nature Reserve situated in Cangyuan Va Autonomous County. By observing its tuberous habit and the presence of stolons connecting the tubers, the scientists concluded that the newfound species belonged to the Begonia sect. Stolonifera.

Through meticulous taxonomic investigations and thorough comparisons with similar species, the researchers unequivocally established the discovery as a previously undocumented begonia species. They bestowed upon it the scientific name Begonia cangyuanensis, highlighting its specific occurrence in Cangyuan Va Autonomous County, Yunnan Province. Subsequently, the research findings were officially published in the Nordic Journal of Botany.

Begonia cangyuanensis. Credit: Ding Hongbo

Begonia cangyuanensis is a creeping herb with a tuberous nature. It reaches a modest height of approximately 5 to 20 cm and sheds its leaves seasonally. What sets this new species apart is its striking resemblance to B. dioica in terms of tuberous growth, adorned with vibrant red stolons between the tubers. However, notable distinctions lie in the presence of two bracteoles beneath the ovary (unlike B. dioica where they are absent) and the female flower boasting four tepals instead of three. Similarly, B. cangyuanensis shares similarities with B. yui, such as the presence of two bracteoles beneath the ovary. Nevertheless, it is distinctly set apart by its tuberous habit featuring vivid red stolons between the tubers (absent in B. yui) and female flowers exhibiting four tepals instead of five.

Endemic to the captivating region of Cangyuan in Yunnan, China, this new species thrives in moist, mossy areas adorning steep rocky slopes. However, owing to limited field surveys, comprehensive information regarding its natural distribution and population status remains elusive. Consequently, the conservation status of B. cangyuanensis has been evaluated as data deficient in accordance with the criteria set forth by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list categories.

Source: Chinese Academy of Sciences

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