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Two new plant species native to Singapore found

SINGAPORE — Two new species of plants, which are new to science and can only be found in Singapore, have been discovered here by researchers at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Hanguana rubinea (left) and Hanguana triangulata (right) have been discovered for the first time and can only be found in Singapore. Photo: National Parks Board

Hanguana rubinea (left) and Hanguana triangulata (right) have been discovered for the first time and can only be found in Singapore. Photo: National Parks Board

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SINGAPORE — Two new species of plants, which are new to science and can only be found in Singapore, have been discovered here by researchers at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

The discovery of the Hanguana rubinea and Hanguana triangulata is unique, said the National Parks Board (Nparks) in a press release today (June 4).

This is because there were at least 25 herbarium records of Hanguana at the Singapore Botanic Gardens Herbarium — some dating more than 100 years old — but all previous records were mistakenly identified as Hanguana malayana due to lack of study of the genus Hanguana, said NParks.

“With field surveys conducted at our nature reserves and areas and through the study of fresh as well as existing herbarium material, researchers from NParks have established that there are at least six species from the Hanguanaceae family in Singapore,” added NParks.

The Hanguana rubinea is named for its ruby-red, dark pink fruits that produce yellow juice when disturbed. It has been found to grow in four locations here: Bukit Timah, Mandai, MacRitchie and Seletar. The species is considered critically endangered at the national and global levels due to its endemic status.

The Hanguana triangulata is named for the sharply triangular shape of the stigma, which is the female part of the flower. It can only be found in two locations, Bukit Timah and Seletar. It has very low numbers of adult individuals, and is considered critically endangered at the national and global levels due to its endemic status.

Last year, NParks and staff from the National University of Singapore independently discovered another species of Hanguana, the Hanguana neglecta — a small primary forest herb with black berries native to Singapore and extending to Johor, Peninsular Malaysia. It is considered locally endangered and globally vulnerable. Immediate conservation and propagation works are ongoing for the Hanguana plant family.

Said taxonomist Jana Leong-Skornickova, who is behind the new discovery: “Finding any new species in heavily urbanised Singapore is almost a small miracle, in part because of our land area and also because Singapore’s flora has been so densely researched in South-east Asia.

The discovery shows that tropical floras are “richer and more complex than we generally presumed”, Dr Leong-Skornickova added.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan wrote in a blog post: “With the discovery of the Zingiber singapurense (a ginger) last year, we now have three plant species found nowhere else in the world. These discoveries prove that size does not matter when it comes to biodiversity.”

“Incidentally, the two new Hanguana plant species have red and white berries, our national colours. At SG50, they are nature’s timely gift to us,” he said.

 

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