By Jenna V. Genio

Researchers from the Philippine Taxonomic Initiative (PTI) have described a new endemic Philippine plant with bright magenta flowers. The novel species Ardisia kalimbahin was discovered during an expedition in March 2021 and was recently published in the scientific journal Phytotaxa in November 2021.

The remarkable flower was chanced upon during fieldwork conducted by PTI’s botanists earlier this year at the Pantabangan-Carranglan Watershed Forest Reserve (PCWFR) in Nueva Ecija. (Liezel Molina-Magtoto)

The genus Ardisia has been estimated to have 500 to possibly more than 1,000 species worldwide. In spite of its proliferation, the genus remains poorly understood. The floristic region of Malesia may be home to around 300 species. According to a literature review from 2020, 74 accepted species of Ardisia have been recorded in the Philippines with 62 being endemic. This number is expected to change as more research is conducted on the genus.

The remarkable flower was chanced upon during fieldwork conducted by PTI’s botanists earlier this year at the Pantabangan-Carranglan Watershed Forest Reserve (PCWFR) in Nueva Ecija. The researchers found that the species was collected earlier, but was misidentified as Ardisia romanii. “We documented an Ardisia with stunning, large magenta flowers. The plant was relatively taller than other Ardisia species, and flowers were borne on each leaf axil near the tip of the twig. At first, I thought it was Ardisia romanii Elmer, a Palawan endemic collected in 1911 and described in 1913. I started to look for literature; however, there was not much publication on their taxonomy despite the richness of Ardisia species in the country,” said the main author of the paper, Liezel Molina-Magtoto.

The researchers collected and preserved specimens from Carranglan with a gratuitous permit issued by the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR). Examinations of earlier collections from different herbaria revealed that Ardisia kalimbahin has also been found in Mindoro and Palawan… The example from Palawan was collected and preserved in the year 1950 while the specimen from Mindoro was collected back in 1986.

According to the full report, Ardisia kalimbahin resembles A. romanii but is differentiated by its “shorter petiole, shorter elliptic leaves, racemose inflorescence, longer and sparsely puberulent pedicels, magenta corolla lobes, basifixed anthers, shorter filaments, and a beaked stigma.”

“Fortunately, I visited the Philippine National Herbarium (PNH) right before the pandemic community quarantines and recorded the Ardisia collections. Although most of them were collected in the early 1900s, the specimens and herbarium notes were in good condition; some even had annotations by foreign botanists. I compared the PCWFR collection against available collections and digitized types. I dissected the flower and noticed more characters that do not fit the description of A. romanii. We decided to write a formal description of the collected specimen and named it after its pink inflorescence. We were able to document its oblate fruit when we got a chance to go back for another fieldwork last October,” continued Magtoto.

The researchers state, “Only a single flowering individual was documented in one location within the vicinity of PCWFR. The paratypes which were collected at least three decades ago, also lack population and habitat descriptions. For these reasons, we propose the conservation status DD (IUCN Standards and Petitions Committee, 2019), as currently available information is inadequate to assess its risk of extinction using the IUCN guidelines.”

PTI’s expedition in Carranglan was facilitated by key protected area management personnel from PCWFR, CENRO-DENR, and DENR Region 3. It was also fully crowd-funded through donations from AAV Biophiles, the Ayala Alabang Village gardening group. PTI also extends its thanks to CDDCA and the Philippine National Herbarium.

The paper entitled “Ardisia kalimbahin (Primulaceae, Myrsinoideae), a new species from the Philippines,” was authored by Liezel M. Magtoto, Maverick N. Tamayo, Leonardo C. Udasco, Jr., and Rene Alfred Anton Bustamante. As of November 23, 2021, it can now be found in the journal Phytotaxa Vol. 525, No.4.

Photos by Liezel M. Magtoto