FEU professor leads discovery of new-found species

FEU Advocate
December 04, 2020 11:29

Filipino scientist and Far Eastern University (FEU) Biological Science Department professor Rudolph Valentino Docot made history for the discovery and recent publication on new ginger species endemic to the country in Mt. Timolan Protected Landscape.

Plagiostachys lourdesian, a distinct genus of Zingiberaceae, was the highlight of the botanical exploration and Docot’s publication “Establishment of Far Eastern University Herbarium (FEUH): Floristic Assessment in Mt. Timolan Protected Landscape, Zamboanga del Sur” made rounds in the biological science community and earned praises nationwide.

In an interview, he expressed that it was challenging to compare the new species to its closest known species that was described way back in 1915 without an available fresh sample for examination.

The late discovery is ascribed by Docot to the lack of taxonomists that study Philippine gingers not until the 21st century. Collections of the species could be traced back from 1954 but people back then had no idea of its identity.

“Unlike the common spice Zingiber officinale (Luya), the rhizome of Plagiostachys lourdesiae is fibrous (with hairs) and not fleshy, therefore, not edible. In addition, the flowers of Plagiostachys lourdesiae emerge 30–50 cm from the ground (appearing at the middle) unlike other species of gingers in which the flowers are either at the top (terminal) or at the ground (radical),” Docot described.

According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Zamboanga Peninsula, among the 50 collected specimens; two were eyed as new species. 

Plagiostachys lourdesiae is not just native to the Philippines but also an endemic species. This means that the species is distributed only in the Philippines. The species is so far known only to occur in the provinces of Agusan del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, and Zamboanga del Sur,” he added. 

With help from his collaborators in Central Mindanao University (CMU), documents and collections of the species were able to assist Docot’s botanical research to finally confirm that Plagiostachys lourdesiae is a new species found only in the region. 

Further, his publication had reached numerous taxonomists that sent him matching images of the same speciesー possibly proving its extended presence in the provinces of Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, and Zamboanga Sibugay. 

Currently, the study is published in an international journal for the scientific study of plants and fungi, the Nordic Journal of Botany. 

The species being named after the University’s Chair Emeritus and scholarly writerDr. Lourdes Montinola is Docot’s appreciation for continuing the legacy of providing quality education started by her father and FEU founder, Dr. Nicanor Reyes Sr. 

He also expressed his gratitude over the assistance of FEU through financial grants, necessary facilities, and equipment for his publication. 

This endeavor prompts the DENR to reinforce its pursuit of new discoveries in Mt. Timolan Protected Landscape that the agency considers to possibly hold more undiscovered species.

The discovery took place back in November 2018.

-Antonio Luis A. Carreon

(Photo courtesy of Rudolph Valentino Docot)