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December 1, 2003


Arboretum director and colleagues report botanical discoveries in Vietnam

The known flora of Vietnam has grown by 3 percent thanks to the efforts of an international team of scientists that includes Daniel Harder, director of the UCSC Arboretum. The team recently published its findings in an article that appears in the Proceedings of the Second National Conference in Life Sciences (Hue, Vietnam, July 25-26, 2003).

Plant species discovered or newly reported in Vietnam include this orchid, Bulbophyllum purpureifolium.
Photo: L. Averyanov

Over the past ten years, Harder and colleagues from Vietnam, Russia, and the United States have identified more than 100 plant species that had not previously been found in Vietnam. In addition to these known species, the researchers have discovered and named more than 200 plant species new to science. Among the new species Harder helped describe is the Golden Vietnamese Cypress (Xanthocyparis vietnamensis), a new genus of conifer.

Harder spent several years in Vietnam as founding director of a botanical conservation program for the Missouri Botanical Garden. Working with Vietnamese botanist Nguyen Tien Hiep, Harder helped train Vietnamese botanists to properly collect, preserve, and archive plant specimens for international herbaria.

Recent trips have yielded additional species waiting to be named. Last winter, Arboretum manager Brett Hall accompanied Harder, Hiep, and Russian botanist Leonid Averyanov on an expedition during which they discovered new species of small palms, begonias, orchids, aroids, and Impatiens, as well as a yellow camellia that is probably also a previously undescribed species.

The addition of more than 300 new species to the Vietnamese flora is likely to have a significant effect on conservation planning in Vietnam. Documentation of the country's flora helps government officials understand which areas are more biologically diverse and perhaps in need of more protection.

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