Kew Gardens experts identify new mistletoe species

Just in time for Christmas, botanists at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew have identified a new species of tropical mistletoe. This is just one the weird and wonderful plant and fungi species identified or re-discovered over the past few months, as part of the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity.

Helixanthera schizocalyx was originally found in 2008, on a research expedition near the summit of Mount Mabu, in northern Mozambique. Colin Congdon, an East African butterfly specialist recognised the mistletoe as something totally unique from montane flora in Malawi and neighbouring Tanzania. Scientists at Kew later confirmed it as a new plant species. This hairless, parasitic shrub, native to wet montane forest, was prevoiously only known from 5 collections from the same area. Its leaves are thought to be adapted for insect – rather than bird- pollination, making the Helixanthera genus different from other members of the Loranthaceae (tropical mistletoe) family. For more on Kew’s amazing discoveries in 2010, see the Kew Gardens Science & Conservation pages.

The BES would like to wish a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all readers of the Ecology & Policy Blog! We will return on 4th January 2011.