New species of salvia discovered in Hunan

New species of salvia discovered in Hunan

They are named after the province in which they are found, and are part of a widely distributed subgroup

Editor’s Note: As protecting the planet’s flora, fauna and resources becomes increasingly important, China Daily is publishing a series of stories to illustrate the country’s commitment to protecting the natural world.

In August 2022, a scientific exploration team made a trip to the forests of Jidong County, Hunan Province, an expedition that eventually led to the discovery of a new species of Salvia (known as Salvia) that was recently reported in a botanical journal.

The team, composed of engineers Huang Yanbo and Ji Bingji from the Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden, as well as researcher Qi Zhichen from the Zhejiang University of Science and Technology, aims to explore the wild habitat of the Salvia plant, the largest genus within the mint family that boasts nearly 1,000 species distributed throughout the world. the world.

Under the guidance of Huang Kunzhong, an official from the local natural resources department, the team ventured into Qiyunfeng National Forest Park. There, at the edge of the forest near a stream in a valley, they found a distinct group of Salvia inhabitants.

Over the next two years, the researchers devoted themselves to comprehensive investigations and experimental studies of this group in its natural habitat and in the laboratory. The team’s collaborative efforts with local and international experts included detailed analyzes of morphological and molecular data.

Their findings revealed that this perennial herb belongs to a specific subgroup known as Glutinaria. This subgroup consists of six known species of Salvia that show a remarkable discrete distribution, extending from Europe, Central Asia and the Himalayas to eastern China, the Korean Peninsula and Japan.

They compared the new species to the six known species in the Glutinaria subgroup. What sets the new species apart is its distinctive corolla shape, heart-shaped leaf bases, noticeably larger leaves, and a unique characteristic not commonly observed in East Asian species – it displays flowers that are either light purple or light yellow. Furthermore, DNA evidence also indicates the status of newly discovered populations everywhere.

After combining all the evidence, the team confirmed that it was a new member of the genus Salvia, and named it Salvia guidongensis.

It is named after the site of its first discovery, Gedong County, where it is currently exclusively distributed, making it an endemic species to this region.

The discovery was published in the international botanical journal Frontiers in Plant Science on March 5.

“China is an important center of Salvia diversity, with nearly 100 species,” said Huang Yanbo, lead author of the article. “The wide morphological diversity, from root to stamen, coupled with its diverse habitats make taxonomic studies of East Asian Salvia an enormous challenge.”

Huang Yanbo said that the discovery and research on Salvia gidongensis is enriching the diversity of the genus and expanding its germplasm resources within the country. Moreover, its unique endemic presence in central China effectively fills the gap in the distribution of the Glutenaria subgroup.

“It provides a new perspective and guide to understanding the biogeographical evolutionary history among plants in Europe, Central Asia and East Asia,” he said.

This pioneering work was the result of a joint effort by 12 researchers from eight local and foreign institutions.

China boasts the richest diversity of East Asian salvia, with 84 species found in the country, accounting for more than 80 percent of the species in the region.

In recent years, significant progress has been made in research of this genus, including new taxonomic classifications and the discovery of new species. According to Huang Yanbo, these ongoing developments underscore the challenges facing phylogenetic and taxonomic studies in Salvia – especially in unexplored areas and obscure populations – and concerns about its conservation status.

Shanghai Zhenshan Botanical Garden has been at the forefront of comprehensive surveys and research on this genus, which has led to the identification of several new taxonomic groups.

Currently, the park has a collection of 150 species and cultivars of salvia, including 75 from within China and 65 from abroad. This collection, totaling 1,752 germplasm resources, makes the park the main repository of Salvia germplasm in China and the wider East Asia region. The valuable materials and data derived from these resources have greatly enhanced efforts in conservation, breeding, scientific research and practical application of Salvia species.

Ji Pingjie (from left), Qi Zichen, Huang Yanbo, and Huang Kunzhong observe a group of sagebrush plants in Qunfeng National Forest Park in Jidong County, Hunan Province, in 2022. DENG RENXIANG / FOR CHINA DAILY

Pale yellow flower of Salvia guidongensis. China Daily

Pale purple flower of Salvia guidongensis. China Daily

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