Botanists at the Kadoorie Farm And Botanic Garden recently reported eight newly recorded plant species in Hong Kong. They include six native and two naturalised species. These findings were recently published in the Subtropical Plant Science journal. The native species are the Pithraj tree, ellipsoidal Sageretia, hooked Sageretia, short-styled star jasmine, Hainan ginger, and wavyleaf basketgrass. The naturalised species are false moneywort and creeping cucumber.

Pithraj tree (Aphanamixis polystachya)

 The fruits of the Pithraj tree grow in bunches and are spherical, light green, and grape-sized.
The fruits of the Pithraj tree grow in bunches and are spherical, light green, and grape-sized (© Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden)

The Pithraj tree is a tall tree from the mahogany family found in South China, India, Sri Lanka, Indochina, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. In China, it could be found in Fujian, Taiwan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan and Yunnan. However, it was widely cut down for timber and became rare in many places.

Hainan ginger (Zingiber hainanense)

Hainan ginger grows on high mountains, in less accessible ravines that are seldom visited.
Hainan ginger grows on high mountains, in less accessible ravines that are seldom visited (© Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden)

Hainan ginger is endemic to Hainan Island and is only found at four locations on Diaoluo mountain and Jianfeng mountain. As the range is so narrow, it should be listed as endangered according to the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. The newly reported native population in Hong Kong showed that the species has a wider range than previously thought and adds hope for its conservation.

Ellipsoidal Sageretia (Sageretia ellipsoidea) & hooked Sageretia (Sageretia hamosa)

This relatively common species was first thought to be Sageretia lucida in Hong Kong.
This relatively common species was first thought to be Sageretia lucida in Hong Kong (© Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden)

Ellipsoidal Sageretia is a relatively common species that was previously thought to be Sageretia lucida, which is actually confined to the limestone hills of Yingde, Guangdong province. A similar species, hooked Sageretia, was also collected from Tai Mo Shan.

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Creeping cucumber (Melothria pendula)

Creeping cucumber is an exotic species native to the United States is naturalised in Hong Kong.
Creeping cucumber is an exotic species native to the United States and is naturalised in Hong Kong (© Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden)

Creeping cucumber is a herbaceous vine of the family Cucurbitaceae (the gourd family). It has golden corollas and black fruits when ripe. It is native to the southeastern United States and is toxic to some extent. Specimens in Hong Kong were found on Peng Chau and Lantau Island, where it grows on wasteland.

False Moneywort (Alysicarpus ovalifolius)

False moneywort, which is native to tropical Africa, was recently discovered in Hong Kong.
False moneywort, which is native to tropical Africa, was recently discovered in Hong Kong (© Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden)

Another exotic plant, false moneywort, was found in Nam Wah Po, Tai Po, New Territories, and Fan Lau, Lantau Island on wasteland. This exotic species, which is native to tropical Africa, may not cause much damage right now, but it needs to be closely monitored in the event that some of them become invasive and produce a variety of hazards.

The remaining two newly recorded species are both native to Hong Kong: short-styled star jasmine (Trachelospermum breviculatum) and wavyleaf basketgrass (Oplismenus undulatifolius).

Header image credits: Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden

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From the Middle East to the Far East and a couple of places in between, Anjali has lived in no fewer than seven cities in Asia, and has travelled extensively in the region. She worked as a lifestyle journalist in India before coming to Hong Kong, where her favourite thing to do is island-hopping with her daughter. You can check out her musings on motherhood, courtesy her Instagram profile.

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