New Species of Sand-Dwelling Plant Discovered in Bolivia, Paraguay

Biologists have described a new species of moonseed plant from the dry forests and transient sand dunes of Bolivia and Paraguay.

Cissampelos arenicola, herbarium. Image credit: Ortiz RdC / MH Nee.

Cissampelos arenicola, herbarium. Image credit: Ortiz RdC / MH Nee.

The new species belongs to Cissampelos, a genus of flowering plants in the moonseed family Menispermaceae.

As typical for most members of the family, Cissampelos plants are dioecious, with their male and female, mostly inconspicuous flowers found in different individuals.

The plant, named Cissampelos arenicola, is morphologically unique by its small leaves, 8 anther-cells in the male flowers, and a large endocarp – a bony tissue surrounding the curved seed – obscurely ornamented.

Cissampelos arenicola grows in tangled viny masses to at least 5 m high in shrubs and small trees, to 5 mm in diameter. Leaves are spiral, ovate- to subreniform-trilobed, usually broader than long, 0.8–3 x 1.3–4 cm.

The plant is known from southern Bolivia and northwestern Paraguay.

In Paraguay, Cissampelos arenicola was collected along ruta Transchaco and also near the border with Bolivia in the National Park Médanos del Chaco, where it has been found in seasonal forests and in dunes.

All Bolivian specimens are from similar habitats of the sandy dune systems southwest of the city of Santa Cruz.

The description of Cissampelos arenicola appears online in the open-access journal PhytoKeys.

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Ortiz RdC, MH Nee. 2014. A new species of Cissampelos (Menispermaceae) from Bolivia and Paraguay. PhytoKeys 38: 89–99; doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.38.6504