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coffee plant
Pensoft Publishers/A. C. Dietzsch                         
This is a branch of Sommera cusucoana showing flower and fruits.

Rare coffee relative found in Honduras

By the Pensoft Publishers news staff

Amid the challenging terrain of northwestern Honduras, where Daniel Kelly's team faced rugged and steep forest areas cut across here and there by a few trails, a gorgeous tree with cherry-like fruits was discovered. Being about 10 meters (33 feet) high and covered with cream-colored flowers, it was quickly sorted into the coffee family (Rubiaceae), but it was its further description that took much longer.

Eventually, it was named Sommera cusucoana, with its specific name stemming from its so far only known locality, the Cusuco National Park. The study is available in the open-access journal PhytoKeys.

The researchers were working on a plant diversity study in the Cusuco National Park, conducted by Kelly, Anke Dietzch and co-workers as a part of a broader survey by Operation Wallacea, an international organisation dealing with biodiversity and conservation management research programs.

A couple of curious findings in the past decade provide a strong incentive to further work. The place turns out to be not only of high biodiversity but to also contain rare and hitherto unknown plant and animal species.

For instance, the tree Hondurodendron (from Greek, 'Honduras Tree') and the herbaceous plant Calathea carolineae are another two endemic species discovered as a result of the Operation Wallacea survey.

In 2013, two individuals of another unknown, 10-meter high (33 foot) tree with cream-colored flowers and red, cherry-like fruits were found by Kelly and Ms. Dietzsch, who are from Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland. The two were aided by local guide Wilmer Lopez.

The multinational collaboration did not stop then and there. Although the scientists quickly figured that the tree belonged to the coffee family, they needed some additional help to further identify their discovery. Thus, they were joined by two leading specialists in this plant group, first Charlotte Taylor from Missouri Botanical Garden and then David Lorence from the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii.

It was actually Lorence who was the first to recognize the unknown tree as a member of the Sommera genus, a group of nine known species of trees and shrubs. Later, the team decided to name the new plant Sommera cusucoana to celebrate its singular locality, the Cusuco National Park.

"Sadly, there has been extensive logging in the vicinity in recent years, and we fear for the future of our new species," the authors stressed. "According to the criteria of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, it must be regarded as critically endangered."
— Oct. 20, 2015

More news of Honduras HERE!

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