Called the "king of spices", pepper has a long history of being used as a seasoning. Piper is the nominate genus of the family Piperaceae, comprising approximately 2,000 species, mainly distributed in the tropics and it is also one of the most diverse lineages among basal angiosperms.
Eleven species and one variety of Piper have previously been reported from Hainan Island, located in the southern part of China just east of Vietnam, belongs to the semi-arid tropical monsoon climate. During floristic investigations of Piper on the island between 2011 and 2016, researchers from Xishaungbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) and Spice and Beverage Research Institute found an interesting new species in Jianfengling National Nature Reserve. They named it as Piper jianfenglingense and got it published in Phytotaxa.
The researchers conducted a detailed examination of the morphological characters of this plant and its possible relatives. They also performed a molecular analysis of the ITS region to determine the proper placement of the new species in a phylogenetic context.
The new species is morphologically similar to Piper mutabile, but it is distinguished by the sparsely pubescent petioles, vaginate at base only. It has two stamens,with considerably longer filaments that are caducous when anthers are mature. Its stigmas are ovoid, apex is acute, and floral bracts adnate to rachis.
The molecular analyses suggest that P. jianfenglingense is genetically similar to P. macropodum and P. mutabile. Morphologically, P. jianfenglingense and P. macropodum differ significantly in their male inflorescence length, stamen number, and infructescence length.
Piper jianfenglingense is currently known only from Jianfengling National Nature Reserve in Ledong County of Hainan Island. It climbs on trees or rocks, close to streams in wet tropical montane forest, at elevations of 500–800 m.
Piper jianfenglingense is classified as critically endangered according to the IUCN standard. The total area of occupancy is less than 10 km² and only two populations are known.
TAN Yunhong Principal Investigator
Center for Integrative Conservation, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Menglun, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China
Piper jianfenglingense. A, B. Habit; C. Adaxial surface of gonophyll; D. Abaxial surface of gonophyll; E. Male spike; F. Female spike; G. Florets in male spike; H. Florets in female spike; I. Infructescence; J. Berry (side view); K. Seed (top view);
(Images by HAO Chaoyun)
Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Menglun, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China
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