Botanists Discover New Tree Species in Tanzania

An international team of researchers has discovered a new species of tree growing in the forests of the Usambara Mountains in Tanzania.

Mischogyne iddii grows white flowers. Image credit: Andrew R. Marshall.

Mischogyne iddii grows white flowers. Image credit: Andrew R. Marshall.

The newfound tree species belongs to the genus Mischogyne (family Annonaceae, tribe Monodoreae), a group of small- to medium-sized tropical trees and shrubs.

Named Mischogyne iddii, the species grows up to 33-66 feet (10-20 m) tall.

It has a cylindrical trunk with a diameter of up to 18 inches (45 cm), light gray bark and white flowers.

“Our team discovered Mischogyne iddii when carrying out a survey of forests to understand the environmental factors that influence the amount of carbon that forests can store,” said Dr. Andy Marshall from the University of York and the University of the Sunshine Coast and his colleagues from the United Kingdom and Belgium.

“We recognized that this is a new species related to Mischogyne, a group previously thought to be restricted to western Africa.”

Mischogyne iddii is known from two locations, one each in the Eastern and Western Usambara Mountains, one in the nationally recognized Amani Nature Reserve and the other in the private Mazumbai reserve.

“The tree is in a particularly beautiful part of the world — up high in the clouded mountains and surrounded by tea estates,” Dr. Marshall said.

“Now that we know it exists, we have to look at ways to protect it.”

“With such a small population, it is important that it does not become isolated from other forests in the region, due to increasing agriculture.”

“Small forests need to be connected to others to ensure seed dispersal and species adaptation to climate change.”

“The discovery of this extremely rare species reaffirms the importance of the Eastern Arc Mountains as one of the most important reservoirs of biodiversity in Africa,” said Dr. George Gosline, a botanist at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

“The area is a refuge for ancient species from a time when a great forest covered all of tropical Africa. These forest remnants are precious and irreplaceable.”

The discovery is described in a paper in the June 2019 issue of the Kew Bulletin.

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George Gosline et al. 2019. Revision and new species of the African genus Mischogyne (Annonaceae). Kew Bulletin 74 (2): 28; doi: 10.1007/s12225-019-9804-7

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