By Jenna V. Genio

A researcher named Kean Roe F. Mazo from Zamboanga has discovered a new plant species. It has been described and named Begonia tinuyopensis after barangay Tinuyop in which it was found. The international scientific community has accepted it as a novel species of Begonia with its recent publication in the journal Phytotaxa.

Photo of Begonia tinuyopensis by Kean Mazo.

Begonia tinuyopensis was first found and documented by Kean Roe F. Mazo, a student of the Master of Science in Forestry (MSF) program of Central Mindanao University with a DOST Project STRAND scholarship. Mazo was also a former instructor from the College of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Western Mindanao State University (WMSU). He discovered the new plant while taking inventory of the flowering plants in his hometown, barangay Tinuyop, Leon B. Postigo (formerly Bacungan), Zamboanga del Norte.

Rene Alfred Anton Bustamante and Yu Pin Ang from the Philippine Taxonomic Initiative (PTI) confirmed the uniqueness of the plant, diagnosed the specimen, and helped describe it for publication. Begonia tinuyopensis marks the 15th species of Begonia recorded from Zamboanga and the fourth Philippine Begonia species discovered since 2020.

Begonia tinuyopensis resembles B. mearnsii by sharing a hairy appearance and similar flowers, yet is distinct by its sparse hairs on the stems, ovate leaves, and smooth ovary. It was found growing in semi-shaded areas along streams, rivers, and trails within a lowland rainforest in barangay Tinuyop. Locals referred to the hairy plant as “amamampang,” a combination of the Cebuano words “kamang” and “pangpang” which mean “crawl” and “cliff” respectively.

Begonia leaves around the Philippines have traditionally been utilized as souring agents, substituting vinegar in many cases. Locals were seen harvesting B. tinuyopensis leaves for preparing “paksiw.” This is one of many threats that face B. tinuyopensis and its unprotected habitat, alongside land conversion, poaching, and other human activities. This unique and rare plant meets the IUCN Red List Criteria for Endangered species.

Closeup photo of Begonia tinuyopensis flower by Kean Mazo.

“Zamboanga Peninsula has been subjected to very little botanical exploration thus many species have yet to be discovered or rediscovered after their first collection. This discovery also means that the remaining forest areas in the municipality of Leon B. Postigo may be the homes of noteworthy species of both plants and animals. Further research, protection, and conservation programs are recommended,” said Kean Roe F. Mazo, the main author of the report.

“The habitat is not protected and thus this species may fall victim to land conversion, human settlements, or poaching and face a decline in the coming years,” warned Yu Pin Ang, one of the paper’s co-authors.

The full report entitled “Begonia tinuyopensis (sect. Petermannia, Begoniaceae), a new species from Zamboanga Del Norte, Philippines” by Kean Roe F. Mazo, Lowell G. Aribal, Rene Alfred Anton Bustamante, and Yu Pin Ang can now be read in Phytotaxa Vol. 516, No. 1.