Spigelia genuflexa

Another new species from Brazil today! BPotD reader Gary Zamzow alerted me to the recently-described Spigelia genuflexa, published (as of yesterday) in the peer-reviewed, open-access journal PhytoKeys: Popovkin AV, Mathews KG, Santos JCM, Molina MC, Struwe L (2011). Spigelia genuflexa (Loganiaceae), a new geocarpic species from the Atlantic forest of northeastern Bahia, Brazil. PhytoKeys 6:47-65. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.6.1654.app4 .

First discovered by José Carlos Mendes Santos, a handyman in rural northeastern Bahia of Brazil, these diminutive plants on the property of amateur botanist Alex Popovkin were photographed and collected by Mr. Popovkin over the course of the past couple years. All of today’s photographs are courtesy of Alex, via Flickr (his photostream: Alex Popovkin, Bahia, Brazil@Flickr). Original images for today’s posting are here, here, and here, and these are part of a much larger set of images by Alex: Spigelia genuflexa.

In the course of trying to determine what species this might be, Alex communicated with taxonomic experts from around the world. The evidence seemed to suggest this was perhaps a new species. With the aid of taxonomists from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos and Rutgers University, the work in establishing it as a new species (through comparisons with previously described species, including phylogenetic analyses), Spigelia genuflexa was recognized and published.

Spigelia genuflexa is unique among the known members of its genus for being geocarpic: (from the article) “During fruit maturation, the basal infructescences bend down towards the ground, depositing the fruit on the surface (and burying it in soft kinds of ground cover, e.g., moss), whereas the upper ones do so slightly but noticeably.” I can recall only one other species with this property previously featured on Botany Photo of the Day, Pseudotrillium rivale.

Only a few small populations are known for this species, all restricted to the sandy leaf litter- or moss-covered soils of the Atlantic tabuleiro forest of Bahia. Growing to 25cm (though initially discovered with plants only 3cm tall), it is a short-lived annual.

To read the press release surrounding the discovery, see “Amateur botanists in Brazil discover a genuflexing plant“.

Spigelia genuflexa
Spigelia genuflexa
Spigelia genuflexa

17 responses to “Spigelia genuflexa”

  1. Deb Lievens

    Very sweet plant and a wonderful story (here and at the link). The kind of story that makes me very hopeful. And another botanical term learned. Great post.

  2. Mary Hamilton

    The pictures are great,but!
    How does one enlarge the text? to be legible???

  3. Jean Hoffmann

    To Mary Hamilton,
    I’m not a computer expert, but I have learned that pressing the Ctrl and + keys together enlarges any text on the internet. Each time you press the keys together the text enlarges again, so you can do this as much as you need.
    To get the text back to the original, press Ctrl and -, the same number of times.
    Hope this helps!
    And thanks for the sweet plant posting.

  4. Connie

    I laughed when it seems like the plant plants its own seeds. Plants are so amazing!

  5. Irma in Sweden

    to Connie
    I thougt it was a cyclamen which also has the habit of burying its seeds

  6. sergioniebla

    Qué hermosura de planta y muy buena foto!! … Felicidades José Carlos Mendes Santos….

  7. *rob*

    inflorescences that flower and then bend down to bury their seeds also sounds like what peanuts do, right?

  8. Daniel Mosquin

    That’s right, but peanuts have yet to be featured on BPotD!

  9. elizabeth a airhart

    if we but look we shall see bravo to one and all
    will the little darling’s seeds go into a seed bank somewhere?
    thank you for shareing with us

  10. Stassia Samuels

    Scoliopus bigelovii, “fetid adder’s tongue”, a very cool, foul smelling relative of Pseudotrillium rivale found in northern California, does the same thing. Wonderful!

  11. Diana Ferguson

    This is beautiful and so exciting to see a new species. Thank you so much for this one!

  12. Deb Lievens

    I can’t live without BPotD for botanical reasons, but you never know what you’ll find. Jean’s computer hint “control + ” will probably make a greater impact on my life than some of the botanical education. Thanks. But learning the term “geocarpic” does still rank amongst the best.

  13. Dana

    I LOVE this site! You are supposed to Learn Something New Everyday, and I learned the term for what peanuts do to make fruit is “geocarpic” – It makes sense, geo=earth and carp=fruit.
    Shame on you Daniel for not highlighting something as cool as a peanut yet! Oh wait, they grow in Georgia in the US and you are in British Columbia, not exactly a peanut’s favorite choice in climate…

  14. elizabeth a airhart

    i live in the usa the little peanut seeds go right in side
    little glass jars where they grow into peanut butter
    how did you think you could have peanut butter
    off your grocers shelves

  15. phillip

    …elizabeth..now quit tellin those tall tales…every knows that the only thing grown in a jar is a tomato..that’s where we get catsup..

  16. swamprose

    This is a wonderful story, as well as a terrific new botanical discovery. High five for amateur botanists! and the internet.

  17. Ruth

    New favorite plant! Looking forward to the peanut story and the shocking news about its masquerade! GO BPotD!!! from Melbourne, Australia.

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