Medinilla ultramaficola was discovered in the early 1980s but was only recently recognized as a unique species upon rediscovery by William Cabanillas. It has now been given its scientific name and description in the paper “Medinilla (Melastomataceae) of Palawan, Philippines Including Two New Species: Medinilla ultramaficola and Medinilla simplicymosa.” The report has been published recently in the journal Systematic Botany through the collaborative efforts between botanists from the Philippines, United States, and Singapore.
Medinilla is the second largest genus in the family Melastomataceae, with perhaps 400 species. The Philippines may support the most species of Medinilla as one of the genus’ centers of greatest diversity. However, Palawan has few Medinilla species compared to other large Philippine islands. “This usually two-feet-tall shrub was encountered growing at the summit region of Central Palawan. M. ultramaficola is well adapted to strong sunlight and frequent strong winds. Clusters of pink flowers emerge from the lower stem portion and certain crabs have even been observed to climb the stem to feed on the petals,” said Yu Pin Ang, one of the paper’s co-authors from PTI. M. ultramaficola is easily distinguished by its terrestrial habit, tuberous roots, larger non-succulent leaves, multi-branched inflorescences, and squarish dentate calyx rim.
“In fact, there is nothing similar known from any other major Philippine island,” said Peter Quakenbush, the main author of the report. “Additionally, five Medinilla species were newly recorded in Palawan, doubling the previously known number, with more discoveries likely.”
M. ultramaficola was named after the ultramafic habitat that it is apparently restricted to, as described by Peter Quakenbush of Western Michigan University, along with Yu Pin Ang, and Rene Alfred Anton Bustamante of the Philippine Taxonomic Initiative (PTI). The other novel species in the paper, M. simplicymosa, was first documented by the renowned ethnobotanist Leonard Co.
The research on Medinilla ultramaficola by Philippine Taxonomic Initiative was funded by the Lost Islands Center for Kape – LICK El Nido, Casa Muni Muni and Phoenix Forest Foundation. The full report was authored by Peter Quakenbush, Pastor Malabrigo Jr., Arthur Glenna Umali, Adriane Tobias, Lea Magarce-Camangeg, Yu Pin Ang, and Rene Alfred Anton Bustamante.