New Species: November 2020

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Here is a list of species described this month. It certainly does not include all described species. You can see the list of Journals used in the survey of new species here.

Bacteria

Clostridium manihotivorum is a new bacterium isolated from the soil in a cassava pul landfill in Thailand. Credits to Cheawchanlertfa et al. (2020).*

SARs

Plants

Leptomischus hiepii is a new rubiacean from Vietnam. Credits to Wu et al. (2020).*
Capsicum regale is a new “chily” from the Andes. Credits to Barboza et al. (2020).*

Amoebozoans

Fungi

Russula orientopurpurea is a new mushroom from South Korea. Credits to Wisitrassameewong et al. (2020).*

Poriferans

Chrysogorgia carolinensis is a new gorgonian from the Western Pacific Ocean. Credits to Xu et al. (2020).*

Cnidarians

Flatworms

Mollusks

Camaena funingensis (A), Camaena gaolongensis (B), Camaena maguanensis (C), Camaena yulinensis (D) are four new land snails from China. Credits to Wang et al. (2020).*

Annelids

Namanereis llanetensis is a new cave nereidid from the Canary Islands. Credits to Núñez et al. (2020).*

Bryozoans

Loriciferans

Nematodes

Tardigrades

Feaella (Tetrafeaella) obscura is a new pseudoscorpion from the Maldives. Credits to Novák et al. (2020).*

Chelicerates

Eutrichodesmus cambodiensis is a new millipede from Cambodia. Credits to Srisonchai et al. (2020).*

Myriapods

Cyclopina busanensis (A), Cyclopina koreana (B), Cyclopina curtijeju (C) and Cyclopina wido (D) are four new copepods from South Korea. Credits to Karanovic (2020).*
Theosbaena loko is a new thermosbaenacean from Thailand. Credits to Jantarit et al. (2020).*
Macrobrachium naiyanetri (A), Macrobrachium palmopilosum (B) and Macrobrachium puberimanus (C) are three new freshwater shrimps from Thailand. Credits to Siriwut et al. (2020).*

Crustaceans

Pusulissus phiaoacensis is a new planthopper from Vietnam. Credits to Bourgoin & Wang (2020).*

Hexapods

Male (A) and female (B) of Pseudophanias excavatus, a new beetle from Taiwan. Credits to Inoue et al. (2020).*
Calophytus chazeaui is a new fly from New Caledonia. Artistic depiction by Marie Metz.*

Echinoderms

Henricia epiphysialis is a new startfish from South Korea. Credits to Ubagan et al. (2020).*

Actinopterygians

Stigmatopora harastii is a new pipefish from Australia. Credits to Short & Trevor-Jones (2020).*
Megophrys anlongensis is a new frog from China. Credits to Li et al. (2020).*

Amphibians

Pattonimus ecominga is a new cricetid from the Andes. Credits to Brito et al. (2020).*

Mammals

Goniurosaurus varius is a new gecko from China. Credits to Qi et al. (2020).*

Reptiles

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Friday Fellow: Toquilla Palm

by Piter Kehoma Boll

You probably known those elegant light and light-colored “Latino” hats known as Panama hats. A historical figure often associated with them is Alberto Santos-Dummont, one of the pioneers of aviation.

Panama hats in Montecristi, Ecuador. Photo by Wikimedia user Sylvain22803.**

Despite this name, though, the Panama hats are originally from Ecuador and today I’m presenting the species with which they are made, the so-called Panama hat plant or toquilla palm, scientifically known as Carludovica palmata.

Despite the name toquilla palm, this plant is not a true palm, but belongs to a peculiar family Cyclanthaceae. Species of this family have a subterraneous stem, a rhizome, and you only see the leaves rising from the ground. The leaves are large, palmate, with the blade deeply lobed almost to the base.

The toquilla palm looks like a palm tree but it is not. Photo by Wikimedia user ELDAN23.***

The flowers occur in a spadix, similar to the inflorescence of plants in the family Araceae (arum plants, such as anthuriums). The arrangement of the flowers on the spadix is very peculiar, formed by many sets of 5 flowers formed by one central female flower surrounded by four male flowers. The female flower is sunk below the male flowers and as four very slong staminodes (sterile stamens) that come to the surface and make the spadix have a hairy look.

Several spadices at different stages of development. Notice the young ones with the very long staminodes of the female flowers, giving them a hairy look. Photo by Rob Stoeltje.*

After polinization, the male flowers die and fall off, the female flowers shed their long staminodes and grow, filling the place previously occupied by the male flowers and fuse together to form a compound fruit. When the fruit is ripe the spadix opens as if it was a banana being peeled and reveal the individual red fruits that remain attached to the “peel” and not to the shaft.

A spadix after pollination. Most male flowers have fallen off but some are still seen as lighter tufts especially at the underside. Photo by Wendy Cutler.*

The toquilla palm is a very important species in the culture of all indigenous people of Ecuador. The leaves and the fibers extracted from them are used for a variety of purposes, such as the manufacturing of roof covers, cords, baskets, clothes and even hunting and fishing tools. The Quechua also use the heart of the plant and the fruits as food and medicine.

The mature fruit peeling itself like a banana with the seeds connected to the “peel”. Photo by Alejandro Bayer Tamayo.****

Unfortunately, little seems to be known about the biochemical and pharmacological properties of the toquilla palm. This already versatile plant certainly harbors many secrets just waiting to be discovered.

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References:

Bennett, B. C., Alarcón, R., & Cerón, C. (1992). The ethnobotany ofCarludovica palmata Ruíz & Pavón (Cyclanthaceae) in Amazonian Ecuador. Economic Botany46(3), 233-240. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02866622

Franz, N. M. (2004). Analysing the history of the derelomine flower weevil–Carludovica association (Coleoptera: Curculionidae; Cyclanthaceae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society81(4), 483-517. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8312.2003.00293.x

Gallegos, R., & Burbano, M. (2004). Forest Products, Livelihoods and Conservation: Case Studies of Non-Timber Forest Product Systems (pp. 437-454, Rep.) (Alexiades M. & Shanley P., Eds.). Center for International Forestry Research. Retrieved November 26, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep02086.28

Invasive Species Compendium. Carludovica palmata (Panama hat plant). Available at < https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/11377 >. Access on 26 November 2020.

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Friday Fellow: Green Spoonworm

by Piter Kehoma Boll

It’s time for another weird creature of the seas. Imagine that you are diving around the Atlantic coast of Europe or the Mediterranean and you see a strange dark-green branched “tentacle” moving on the sand. Would you know what the heck it is?

A long tentacle-like forked structure crawls on the sea floor. What is this? Photo by Luis Martínez Artola.*

This tentacle is actually the proboscis of Bonellia viridis, the so-called green spoonworm. This species belongs to a group called Echiura, which for a long time was considered a separate phylum but is now regarded as belonging to the phylum Annelida.

We can also say for sure that the specimen in the picture above is a female because it is impossible to mistake on sex for the other. Female green spoonworms have a chubby 8-cm-long cylindrical body not that different from other marine worms. Depending on the degree of contraction, the body may look like a single sphere, like two balls inside a sock or like a long soft cucumber. The anterior end as a long and very extensible proboscis up to 10 times or more the body length. Females spend most of their time hidden inside crevices or abandoned borrows and only put their proboscis outside, using it to look for detritus or small animals on which they feed.

Whole body of a female with the proboscis retracted. Photo by Sylvain Ledoyen.**

Males, on the other hand, are much smaller, reaching only 1 to 3 mm in length and looking like small planarians. They live as “testicular parasites” inside the body of the female. In other words, they are basically testicles that the female attached to her body to be able to become a hermaphrodite.

It is also interesting to see how males and females become what they are. When they are born, they do not have a defined sex yet. If those newborn larvae remain close to their mother or other female, they become males because of masculinizing substances that females produce. Those that are able to move away from adult females develop into new females.

See a female in action.

The dark green color of the female is caused by a substance named bonellin. It is concentrated in the proboscis and, when exposed to light, is activated and become a potent toxin able to kill bacteria, paralyze flagellated eukaryotic cells and cause lysis of human blood cells. Due to such effects and the fact that females release bonellin in the environment when they are disturbed, it is likely that this substance acts as a deffense mechanism and perhaps also as a way to help capture small prey.

Strangely, however, bonellin also seems to be the reason why the larvae that touch an adult female become males. In fact the larvae seem to be attracted to the proboscis of females as soon as they are born. A lethal substance for many lifeforms, it is a delicacy for the larvae, but pursuing it makes them pay the price of becoming nothing but a parasitic testicle forever.

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References:

Berec L, Schembri PJ, Boukal DS (2005) Sex determination in Bonellia viridis (Echiura: Bonelliidae): population dynamics and evolution. Oikos108(3), 473-484. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0030-1299.2005.13350.x

Gauthier MJ, de Nicola Giudici M (1983) Antibiotic activity of bonellin and hematoporphyrin on marine and terrestrial bacteria. Current Microbiology8(4), 195-199. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01579545

Wikipedia. Bonellia viridis. Available at < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonellia_viridis >. Access on 19 November 2020.

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Friday Fellow: Pygmy Black Lichen

by Piter Kehoma Boll

We all know lichens, those crusty fungi that grow associated with algae on trees or rocks, but lichens form such a diverse group that they can be found in all types of environments, including the sea, for example.

Today’s species, Lichina pygmaea, which I decided to call the pygmy black lichen, is one of those marine species. Found at the intertidal zone of rocky shores in Europe, the pygmy black lichen forms conspicuous black tufts that sometimes grow to form extensive black mats on the rocks.

Pygmy black lichen growing among barnacles and fighting for a place with brown and green algae. Photo by iNaturalist user zaca.**

If you look it closely, you will notice that the body of the pygmy black lichen consists of a somehow flattened and branched thallus with rounded tips, being more gelatinous than its terrestrial counterparts. The tips often bear fruiting bodies, which form small round structures.

Reaching about 1 cm in height at maximum, the pygmy black lichen looks somehow like a small red alga, and is, in fact, often confused with some similar red algae, such as Catenella caespitosa, but this alga is dark purple instead of black.

Catenella caespitosa, a red alga that make be mistaken for the pygmy black lichen at first glance and vice versa. Photo by Pierre Corbrion.*

The pygmy black lichen is a so-called cyanolichen, a lichen that has cyanobacteria as associated algae instead of green algae like most terrestrial lichens. In fact, it is not closely related to the more familiar lichens, belonging to a different lineage of fungi that lichenized independently. Its physiology, however, is surprisingly similar to that of terrestrial lichens, which is likely because it spends about half of its life outside the water during the low tide, being exposed to harsh conditions like most intertidal sessile species.

A large mat of the pygmy black lichen. Credits to Pierre Corbrion.*

Lab studies have isolated important compounds of the pygmy black lichen, including pygmaniline, an antioxidant, and pygmeine, an antitumor agent, which can lead to the development of novel anticancer drugs. However, the pygmy black lichen seems to have a very slow growth like most lichens and it has difficulties competing with other intertidal species for space, thus the exploitation of this resource needs to be conducted carefully.

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References:

Mahajan N, Chadda R, Calabro K, Solanki H, O’Connell E, Murphy PV, Thomas OP (2017) Isolation and synthesis of pygmanilines, phenylurea derivatives from the Northeastern Atlantic lichen Lichina pygmaea. Tetrahedron Letters58(12), 1237-1239. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tetlet.2017.02.037

Prieto A, Leal JA, Bernabé M, Hawksworth DL (2008) A polysaccharide from Lichina pygmaea and L. confinis supports the recognition of Lichinomycetes. mycological research112(3), 381-388. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mycres.2007.10.013

Raven JA, Johnston AM, Handley LL, McInrot SG (1990) Transport and assimilation of inorganic carbon by Lichina pygmaea under emersed and submersed conditions. New Phytologist114(3), 407-417. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8137.1990.tb00408.x

Roullier C, Chollet-Krugler M, Van de Weghe P, Lohézic-Le Devehat F, Boustie J (2010) A novel aryl-hydrazide from the marine lichen Lichina pygmaea: Isolation, synthesis of derivatives, and cytotoxicity assays. Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry letters20(15), 4582-4586. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bmcl.2010.06.013

Tyler-Walters H (2002) Lichina pygmaea Black lichen. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 12-11-2020]. Available from: https://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/1803

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Friday Fellow: Impossible Moss

by Piter Kehoma Boll

For a long time, all non-vascular land plants were classified as a single division, Bryophyta, divided into three groups: liverworts, mosses and hornworts. Currently, however, they are treated as three separate divisions: Marchantiophyta (liverworts), Bryophyta (mosses) and Anthocerophyta (hornworts). The three groups are anatomically distinct and it is hard to mistake one for another, especially mosses, which have a very characteristic “minitree” look, but sometimes it is not that easy to see the difference.

This is the case for today’s fellow, a very peculiar moss that is called ナンジャモンジャゴケ (impossible moss) in Japanese, and for a good reason. Its scientific name is Takakia lepidozioides and it is one of the two species in the genus Takakia.

When specimens of Takakia were first discovered in the 19th century, they were originally classified as liverworts and this remained so for many decades because no reproductive structures were known. When female gametophytes were first found with archegonia (the female reproductive structure), it became clear that they are actually mosses and were reclassified as such.

A closer look at the shoots of the impossible moss. Photo by Stu Crawford.*

The impossible moss grows as a layer of slender, creeping rhizomes from which small green and fragile shoots emerge. These shots have tiny leaves that are only a few cells wide and branch at the top like a snake tongue, a feature not seen in mosses of other genera. Growing in very shaded forested areas, the impossible moss has a very disjunct distribution, with isolated populations found in Asia and North America. It is considered a typical example of a relict species, which probably had a very large original distribution but was almost extinct during an ice age, with only those small isolated populations remaining.

The impossible moss, in fact, suffered more than the loss of most of its population during this event. All male plants seem to have become extinct as well. As a result, the surviving populations consists only of female plants that are forced to reproduce asexually by budding of the rhizomes and by small fragments of the shoots that may end up forming entire new plants.

The female plants continue to produce sexual structures, though, as if they haven’t given up hope yet and still believe that some males may be out there. Who knows? Maybe we will eventually find some in another isolated population deeply hidden in some remote place of our planet.

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References:

Akiyama H (1999) Genetic variation of the asexually reproducing moss, Takakia lepidozioides. Journal of Bryology21(3), 177-182.

Wikipedia. Takakia. Available at < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takakia >. Access on 5 November 2020.

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New Species: October 2020

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Here is a list of species described this month. It certainly does not include all described species. You can see the list of Journals used in the survey of new species here.

Bacteria

Archaeans

SARs

Adlafia babeiensis is a new diatom from Vietnam. Credits to Glushchenko et al. (2020).*
Octoblepharum peristomiruptum is a new moss from the Neotropics. Credits to Allen & Gudiño (2020).*

Plants

Oreocharis aimodisca is a new gesneriacean from China. Credits to Cai et al. (2020).*

Fungi

Conidiophores of Trichoderma vermifimicola, a new mold from China. Credits to Gu et al. (2020).*

Poriferans

Cnidarians

Caenoplana decolorata is a new exotic land planarian found in Spain. Credits to Mateos et al. (2020).*

Flatworms

Sarika lactospira is a new snail from Thailand. Credits to Pholyotha et al. (2020).*

Mollusks

Peronia griffithsi is a new air-breathing sea slug from Indonesia. Credits to Dayrat et al. (2020).*

Annelids

Nematodes

Arachnids

Alienostreptus bicoloripes is a new millipede from Vietnam. Credits to Pimvichai et al. (2020).*

Myriapods

Mesopontonia kimwoni is a new shrimp from Korea. Credits to Park et al. (2020).*

Crustaceans

Indochinamon malipoense is a new crab from China. Credits to Zhang et al. (2020).*
Aphalara ritteri is a new jumping plant louse from southern Brazil. Credits to Burckhardt et al. (2020).*

Insects

Campiglossa ialong is a new fly from India. Credits to David et al. (2020).*

Echinoderms

Chondrichthyans

Actinopterygians

Oedipina villamizariorum is a new salamander from Ecuador. Credits to Reyes-Puig et al. (2020).*

Amphibians

Megophrys qianbeiensis is a new horned toad from China. Credits to Su et al. (2020).*

Reptiles

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Friday Fellow: Giant Thorny Oyster

by Piter Kehoma Boll

I always get shocked when I find out that some beautiful and apparently well-known species is still almost completely unresearched. And today again we have one such species here.

Spondylus varius, the giant thorny oyster, is a large bivalvian mollusk found in the Indo-Pacific region, especially around Indonesia, northern Australia and northward to Japan. It reaches up to 20 cm in size, being the largest species in the genus Spondylus, known as thorny oysters.

A giant thorny oyster near Mayotte in the Indic Ocean. Photo by Frédéric Ducarme.*

Despite the name, thorny oysters are not closely related to the true oysters but are more related to scallops and clams. Nevertheless, they are able to produce pearls, although rarely. The adjective “thorny” refers to the fact that the shell has several projections that resemble thorns.

The shell of an adult giant thorny oyster is almost entirely white, but the prodissoconch (the basalmost part of each valve, which is smooth) has a crimson to yellow color. This is more easily seen in a cleaned shell of a dead specimen. Live specimens are attached to the substrate and their shell is almost always covered by other sessile lifeforms.

Several clean shells of the giant thorny oyster showing its white color with a crimson to yellow prodissoconch. Photo by Wikimedia user Amada44.**

The border of the mantle, visible at the edge of the shell when it is open, has many small orange to yellow tentacles, as well as many eyes like in scallops, although they are not as easily noticed. The mantle ridge has a grayish blue color with white and black spots of different sizes and a yellow border.

The giant thorny oyster is edible and is often consumed in Okinawa. A soup made from it is considered a medicine to maintain hepatic function and a study has revealed that some extracts from this species had a protective effect on the liver, suggesting that its traditional use has a ground.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find any ecological studies about the giant thorny oyster. What wonders may this beautiful bivalve be hiding? There are so many species to be studied and so little people and even less funding to support such studies.

We need a more scientific world. And killing Trump and Bolsonaro would be a wonderful way to start moving toward this goal =)

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References:

Koyama T, Chounan R, Uemura D, Yamaguchi K, Yazawa K (2006) Hepatoprotective Effect of a Hot-Water Extract from the Edible Thorny Oyster Spondylus varius on Carbon Tetrachloride-Induced Liver Injury in Mice. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry 70(3): 729-731. https://doi.org/10.1271/bbb.70.729

Wikipedia. Spondylus. Available at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spondylus>. Access on 29 October 2020.

Wikipedia. Spondylus varius. Available at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spondylus_varius>. Access on 29 October 2020.

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Friday Fellow: Sequoia Glowing Millipede

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Some weeks ago I talked about some predatory beetles that are extremely resistant to cyanide produced by their millipede prey. Today I decided to introduce one of these cyanide-producing millipedes.

Scientifically known as Motyxia sequoiae, it apparently lacks a common name, so I decided to call it the Sequoia Glowing Millipede. The genus Motyxia is endemic to California in the United States, and the Sequoia glowing millipede is apparently the most common species in the genus.

At first the sequoia glowing millipede looks like any ordinary millipede. Photo by P. Mark, extracted from the Myrmecos Blog.

Like most millipedes, the sequoia glowing millipede is a detritivore, feeding mostly on dead plant matter in the leaf litter of forests. It is also a prey species to many other animals, including mammals and beetles, and have interesting defense mechanisms to prevent being eaten.

One of those defenses is the production of hydrocyanic acid (HCN), which is emitted through special pores at the sides of the body when they are disturbed. This HCN secretion can produce serious damage on the skin of humans and even kill small vertebrates such as birds or mammals trying to feed on them. Many predatory beetles, however, as I mentioned in the other post, have developed a remarkable resistance to cyanide.

But cyanide is not the only cyan defense of the sequoia glowing millipede. Being nocturnal animals, they are often found by nocturnal predators, including small mammals. An additional defense besides the production is cyanide is the production of light, more precisely a strong cyan light. All species of the genus Motyxia are bioluminescent and they are the only bioluminescent millipedes known in the world. Thus, a name like glowing millipede seems appropriate, right?

If there’s a reason to visit California someday is to see this beauty. Photo by iNaturalist user brock.*

Since species of the genus Motyxia are blind, this light cannot have any role in communication with individuals of the same species. An experiment has shown that species of Motyxia suffer fewer predator attacks than non-bioluminescent millipedes. One of the main predators of millipedes in California besides beetles are small rodents. The blue wavelenght produced by the glowing millipedes seems to be particularly disturbing to mammals at night because the mammal eye is very sensitive to this wavelength.

The mechanisms that create this luminescence are not well understood yet but seem to be similar to the way beetles and jellyfish produce light. The light is produced in the exoskeleton and therefore occurs across the whole body of the millipede. It is also continuous through the night, so that is likely related to the circadian rhythm, but it becomes more intense when the animals are disturbed, which highlights its function as a warning sign.

Facing the perils of predation, the glowing millipedes went a step ahead of only being very toxic and became the light of their class.

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References:

Marek PE, Moore W (2015) Discovery of a glowing millipede in California and the gradual evolution of bioluminescence in Diplopoda. PNAS 112(20):6419-6424. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1500014112

Maerk P, Papaj D, Yeager J, Molina S, Moore W (2011) Bioluminescent aposematism in millipedes. Current Biology 21(18):R680-R681. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2011.08.012

Weary BP, Will KW (2020) The Millipede-Predation Behavior of Promecognathus and Exceptional Cyanide Tolerance in Promecognathus and Metrius (Coleoptera: Carabidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America. https://doi.org/10.1093/aesa/saaa023

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Friday Fellow: Southern Raintree

by Piter Kehoma Boll

During my childhood, my mother had a beautiful shrub in our garden that had beautiful purple to white flowers occuring together in the same plant.

I was already an undergraduate student when I found out that this shrub was part of the famous family Solanaceae, which also includes popular food items such as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and bellpeppers. Since no species of this family was presented as a Friday Fellow until now, I decided to start with this lovely species that has a special place in my heart.

The scientific name of this shrub is Brunfelsia australis. In English it has several different common names, including “Jasmine of Paraguay” and “Southern raintree”. I will stick to the latter here.

Flowers of the southern raintree with different ages and, therefore, different colors. Photo by Leonardo Adrián LEIVA.*

The Southern raintree is endemic to Paraguay, southern Brazil, Uruguay and northern Argentina. It has a more popular relative, the Brazilian raintree Brunfelsia pauciflora, which is often cultivated as an ornamental plant. The southern raintree is its poor relative, as I often noticed that my mother’s shrub did not have as many flowers as the ones I saw in other gardens.

The southern raintree grows as a shrub, rarely as a small tree, that, when without flowers, looks like an ordinary shrub. It lacks thorns, has entire and simple leaves with a smooth surface and a leathery aspect.

Leaves of the southern raintree. Photo by Leonardo Adrián Leiva.*

The flowers are born in small clusters and are tubular, with fused petals, although they open at the end and form a sort of disk, which make them look flat when seen from above. They bloom purple and slowly become paler until they turn almost white, so the shrub may have flowers of different colors mixed across the branches.

A young, purple, and an old, whitish, flower in the same plant. Photo by Regina Piazza.*

Little seems to be known about the ecology of the southern raintree. It is a poisonous species, though, as other species of Brunfelsia and most species in the family Solanaceae. There are several reports in the literature about poisoning of animals, especially dogs, that accidentally ate parts of the plant. The fruit, which is a small leathery berry, seems to be particularly poisonous.

A fruit of the southern tree. Photo by Forest & Kim Starr.**

Although not as popular as its more famous relative, the southern raintree seems to be more resistant to drought than the Brazilian raintree, so it has been gaining some popularity as a garden plant recently as well.

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References:

Clipsham R (2012) Brunfelsia australis (Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow Tree) and Solanum Poisoning in a Dog. Journal of the American Hospital Association 48(2):139–144. https://doi.org/10.5326/JAAHA-MS-5725

Flora Digital. Brunfelsia australis. Available at < https://floradigital.ufsc.br/open_sp.php?img=2410 >. Access on October 15, 2020.

Kew Plants of the World Online. Brunfelsia australis. Available at <http://www.plantsoftheworldonline.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:37517-2>. Access on October 15, 2020.

Wikipedia. Brunfelsia. Available at < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brunfelsia >. Access on October 15, 2020.

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**Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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Friday Fellow: Hairy Club Fungus

by Piter Kehoma Boll

The diversity of lifeforms on our planet is so great that today we still find new and peculiar forms even where we think we would not find anything new. This is the case of today’s species, Hirticlavula elegans, which I decided to call the hairy club fungus.

Found in Denmark and Norway since 1995, the hairy club fungus was only formally described in 2014 after the first successful sequencing of genetic material for phylogenetic studies. It belongs to the family Clavariaceae, whose species are known as club fungi, coral fungi or finger fungi, having conspicuous finger-like fruiting bodies that often occur in clusters.

In the hairy club fungus, however, the fruiting bodies are very peculiar. They are very small, barely reaching 1 mm in height, and consists of an ovoid white fertile head and a semitransparent stem with many straight hairs ponting upward and outward. These hairs originate from the outer hyphae that form the stem and are highly septate compared to similar hairs in other kind-of-closely related fungi.

The peculiar fruiting bodies of the hairy club fungus. Photo by Jens Henrik Petersen.*

But this is not the only way that the hairy club fungus is different from other species in Clavariaceae. While most species in this family are biotrophic, i.e., feed on live matter, as parasites or other forms of symbiosis, the hairy club fungus is a saprotrophic, feeding on decaying plant matter. It grows on the bark and, rarely, the wood of trees, including oaks, willows and hazels.

Aren’t those fruiting bodies lovely? Photo by Jens Henrik Petersen.*

Another peculiar characteristic of this species is that it produces fruiting bodies from May to October, which is a very long period compared to closely related species.

Considering all this unusual features, the hairy club fungus seems to be either the sole or one of the few surviving species of an almost extinct clade or the first species of a diverse but still hidden group. Let’s wait to see what the future holds.

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Reference:

Petersen JH, Davey ML & Læssøe T (2014) Hirticlavula elegans, a new clavarioid fungus from Scandinavia. Karstenia 54(1):1–8. https://doi.org/10.29203/ka.2014.459

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*Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Filed under Friday Fellow, Fungi