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Malpighia meyeriana (Malpighiaceae), a new species from the NE coast of Cuba
Author(s): Pedro A. González Gutiérrez
Source: Willdenowia, 45(3):443-447.
Published By: Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin (BGBM)
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443Willdenowia 45 – 2015
Novitiae florae cubensis No. 49
PEDRO A. GONZÁLEZ GUTIÉRREZ1
Malpighia meyeriana (Malpighiaceae), a new species from the NE coast of Cuba
González Gutiérrez P. A.: Malpighia meyeriana (Malpighiaceae), a new species from the NE coast of Cuba [Novitiae
ﬂorae cubensis 49]. – Willdenowia 45: 443 – 447. 2015. – Version of record ﬁrst published online on 16 November
2015 ahead of inclusion in December 2015 issue; ISSN 1868-6397; © 2015 BGBM Berlin.
Malpighia meyeriana, a new species from the NE coastal fringe of Cuba, is described and compared with other spe-
cies of the genus occurring in Cuba. Aspects of its distribution and conservation status are discussed.
Additional key words: taxonomy, Malpighia emarginata, Malpighia glabra, Malpighia verruculosa subsp. antillana,
endemism, critically endangered
Malpighia L. (Malpighiaceae) comprises c.130 species
distributed from Texas (U.S.A.) to N South America and
the islands of the Caribbean according to a revision of
the genus published by Meyer (2000). Roig & Acuña
(1953) recorded 21 species for the Cuban archipelago,
and Borhidi & Muñiz (1972) by adding two additional
species increased the number to 23. In an unpublished
doctoral thesis, Vivaldi (1979) placed in synonymy some
of the names accepted by Roig and Acuña (1953) and
reduced Malpighia in Cuba to only eleven species includ-
ing seven endemics.
Meyer’s (2000) recognition of numerous new species
and subspecies raised the number to 59 species and nine
subspecies in Cuba. The descriptions of 11 of the new
Cuban taxa proposed by Meyer lack diagnostic charac-
ters pertaining to inﬂorescences, ﬂowers and fruits, all
of which call some of the circumscriptions into question.
According to Meyer’s (2000) work almost half of the
species of Malpighia occur in Cuba. Acevedo-Rodríguez
& Strong (2012) stated that “since Meyer’s concepts are
too contrasting from the traditional taxonomy of Mal-
pighia, we feel that his system needs further testing be-
fore it can be accepted”, and Anderson (2013) proposed
only “50 or more species” for the genus Malpighia.
The taxonomic uncertainty points to the need for
comprehensive revision of Malpighia in Cuba. With this
aim, ﬁeld expeditions are being carried out in order to
ﬁnd the wild populations of species of Malpighia, partic-
ularly of those that are known only from type specimens
and/or incomplete descriptions. To date, about 15 species
of Malpighia have been relocated, making possible the
description of inﬂorescences, ﬂowers, fruits and pyrenes
of some of Meyer’s novelties (e.g. M. ﬂavescens F. K.
Mey., M. phillyreifolia F. K. Mey.; González, unpubl.).
Study of Meyer’s (2000) treatment, ﬁeld work and ex-
amination of herbarium specimens revealed a taxon with
1 Centro de Investigaciones y Servicios Ambientales y Tecnológicos de Holguín (CISAT), CITMA, Calle 18 sn, entre 1ª y Maceo,
Reparto “El Llano”, Holguín 80 100, Cuba; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
444 González Gutiérrez: Malpighia meyeriana from the NE coast of Cuba
characteristics not matching any described species of
Malpighia. This taxon is here described as a new species.
Malpighia meyeriana P. A. González, sp. nov. – Fig. 1, 2.
Holotype: Cuba, Provincia de Holguín, Municipio de
Gibara, cerca de la curva de la campana, entre la car-
retera y el manglar de Rhizophora mangle, en vegetación
secundaria con abundancia de Dichrostachys cinerea, 4
Nov 2014, P. A. González Gutiérrez HFC 88202 (HAJB G
000487; isotypes: B 10 0594594, Herbarium of Holguín
Botanical Garden). [HFC = Series of the Herbarium of
the Flora of Cuba.]
Morphological diagnosis — Leaf blade obovate or ellip-
tic, 2 – 5 × 1 – 2cm, base acute, margin entire, bearing thin
hairs 1 – 1.5mm long, apex obtuse, rounded, sometimes
emarginate and commonly mucronulate. Inﬂorescence
sessile or borne on a stalk, 2-ﬂowered. Fruit orange, turn-
ing red when ripe, globose, 1 – 1.5cm in diam.; pyrenes
6 – 7 × 3.5 – 4mm.
Morphological description — Shrubs or small trees,
densely branched, 2 – 5m tall. Stipules 0.5 – 0.7mm long,
apex very acute; petiole 1 – 2mm long, densely covered
with hairs <1mm long; leaf blade adaxially shiny green,
abaxially paler green, obovate or elliptic, 2 – 5 × 1 – 2cm,
adaxially with scattered thin hairs <1mm long, abaxially
with abundant thin hairs <1mm long, on both surfaces thin
hairs falling with age, base acute, margin entire, bearing
thin hairs 1 – 1.5mm long, apex obtuse, rounded, some-
times emarginate and commonly mucronulate; midvein
prominent abaxially; secondary veins 5 – 11 pairs. Inﬂores-
cence (Fig. 2A) sessile or borne on a stalk 1 – 2mm long,
2-ﬂowered, thick, densely hairy; peduncle 4 – 6mm long,
hairy; bracts c. 0.5 mm long, hairy; pedicels 9 – 11 mm
long, hairy; bracteoles 0.3 – 0.4 mm long, densely hairy.
Flower (Fig. 2B) c.1cm in diam.; calyx with 10 glands
(1 – 1.5mm long), free part of sepals c.1mm long, abaxial-
ly hairy, apex rounded; petals 5, dark pink; posterior petal
limb c.4.5 × 4.5 – 5mm, margin mostly irregularly erose,
claw thick, 2.5 – 3mm long; posterior lateral petals limb
c.3 × 3.5mm, margin irregularly erose basally and mostly
entire apically, claw 1 – 1.5mm long; anterior lateral pet-
als limb c.2 – 2.5 × 2 – 2.5mm, margin mostly entire, claw
1–1.5mm long; stamens 10; ﬁlaments c.2mm long, those
opposing posterior lateral petals conspicuously thicker
than others; anthers c.0.5mm long; ovary c.2mm in
diam., glabrous with few scattered hairs; styles 3, c.3mm
long, anterior style slightly thicker than posterior styles.
Fruit (Fig. 2C) orange, turning red when ripe, globose,
1 – 1.5cm in diam.; pyrenes (Fig. 2D) 3 per fruit, 6 – 7 ×
3.5 – 4mm, each with a prominent dorsal crest.
Phenology — The species has been collected in ﬂower
in November and in fruit in September, October and No-
Distribution — Malpighia meyeriana is a local endemic
of the coastal fringe of the province of Holguín in NE
Cuba. It has been collected in the municipalities of
Gibara and Mayarí, which are located about 70 km apart
Ecology — The species has been collected in thickets
near mangroves of Rhizophora mangle L. (Rhizophora-
ceae) in Gibara and of Avicennia germinans (L.) Stearn
(Acanthaceae) in Mayarí. In Gibara it grows in second-
ary thickets, where the exotic and invasive Dichrostachys
cinerea (L.) Wight & Arn. (Fabaceae) is dominant and
two other species of Malpighia occur, M. ﬂavescens and
M. linearifolia F. K. Mey. In Mayarí the species grows
associated with M. linearifolia.
Conservation status — In the last four years only two
mature plants of Malpighia meyeriana were seen in na-
ture at localities c.70km apart. Other coastal areas of
Gibara and Vuelta Larga were explored during the last
15 years, but no other populations of M. meyeriana were
found. The estimate of the area of occupancy of this spe-
cies is less than 10 km2. In Gibara M. meyeriana was
found growing in thickets dominated by exotic invasive
Dichrostachys cinerea. Thus, according to IUCN criteria
(IUCN 2012), M. meyeriana must be classiﬁed as Criti-
cally Endangered: CR B1ab(iii,v)+2ab(iii,v); D.
Etymology — The speciﬁc epithet honours Friedrich Karl
Meyer (1926 – 2012), who dedicated part of his life to the
study of the genus Malpighia.
Discussion of morphological characters — The most
outstanding character of the species of Malpighia occur-
ring in Cuba is the presence of sharp stinging T-shaped
hairs or bristles, “Spindelstechhaare” in the terminology
of Meyer (2000). In Cuba only three taxa are almost gla-
brous or have short and thin hairs, M. emarginata DC.,
M. glabra L. and M. verruculosa subsp. antillana (Vival-
di) F. K. Mey., which are the taxa most similar to the new
species described here.
Meyer saw a specimen of the new species (HFC
86489, JE) and identiﬁed it in February 2011 as Mal-
pighia emarginata, which is cultivated in Cuba; it can be
found in abandoned orchards or rarely growing spontane-
ously near towns. Malpighia emarginata is often curso-
rily identiﬁed by the short shoots bearing closely spaced
paired leaves as well as shoots with longer internodes.
Fig. 1 shows that this leaf arrangement is also found in
M. meyeriana, which may have led Meyer to assign the
cited specimen to M. emarginata (C.Anderson, pers.
comm.). Malpighia emarginata has leaves slightly larger
than those of M. meyeriana, and the leaf margin of M.
emarginata is glabrous or bears hairs shorter than in M.
meyeriana. Plants of M. emarginata usually have inﬂo-
rescences with more than 2 ﬂowers, whereas M. meyeri-
ana has only 2-ﬂowered inﬂorescences. The pyrenes of
445Willdenowia 45 – 2015
Fig. 1. Holotype of Malpighia meyeriana, deposited in the Herbarium of the National Botanical Garden of Cuba (HAJB).
446 González Gutiérrez: Malpighia meyeriana from the NE coast of Cuba
M. emarginata are larger than those of M. meyeriana (Fig.
Malpighia glabra diers from the new species by its
almost glabrous leaves, which have short and thin hairs
only when they are very young. The leaf blade apex
in M. glabra is mostly acute, but in M. meyeriana it is
mostly obtuse, rounded, sometimes emarginate and com-
monly mucronulate. The in-
ﬂorescence of M. glabra has
more ﬂowers [(2 or)3-5(or
6)-ﬂowered] than that of M.
The separation of Mal-
pighia meyeriana and M.
verruculosa subsp. antil-
lana is more obvious, since
among the species of Mal-
pighia occurring in Cuba, M.
verruculosa subsp. antillana
is the only taxon in which the
fruit splits into three carpels.
In M. meyeriana the fruit is
globose, as in M. emarginata
and M. glabra.
Additional specimens seen — C: P
H: Municipio de Mayarí, Vuelta Larga, en un
parche de matorral que se encuentra en una zona de pas-
tos propiedad de Tico Pérez, 20 Oct 2010 (fruits), P. A.
González Gutiérrez HFC 86489 (B, HAJB, JE); Muni-
cipio de Gibara, Rancho Bravo (cultivated), 18 Sep 2011
(fruits), P. A. González Gutiérrez HFC 87223 (HAJB).
Fig. 2. Malpighia meyeriana – A: ﬂowering branch; B: ﬂower, posterior petal at top; C: fruiting branch; D: comparison of pyrenes
of M. emarginata (left) and M. meyeriana (right).
Fig. 3. Localities (*) where Malpighia meyeriana was collected on NE coast of Cuba.
447Willdenowia 45 – 2015
I am grateful to William R. Anderson and Christiane
Anderson for their support and for their comments on
Malpighia and other Malpighiaceae during the last eight
years. The International Association for Plant Taxonomy
(IAPT) in 2014 supported my ﬁeld expeditions in Cuba
with the objective to study Cuban Malpighia and Byr-
sonima. I thank the Verein der Freunde des Botanischen
Gartens und Botanischen Museums Berlin-Dahlem e.V.
for its support during my extended visits at the Botanic
Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin during the last ﬁve
years. The comments and suggestions oered by Chris-
tiane Anderson and two other, anonymous reviewers as
well as by Nicholas Turland, editor, improved the manu-
script. I also express my gratitude to my wife Zaharaí and
my children Sandra and Carlitos, for their companion-
ship during my ﬁeld trips and their everyday support.
Acevedo-Rodríguez P. &. Strong M. T. 2012: Catalogue
of seed plants of the West Indies. – Smithsonian
Contr. Bot. 98.
Anderson W. R. 2013: Origins of the Mexican Malpighia-
ceae. – Acta Bot. Mex. 104: 107 – 156.
Borhidi A. & Muñiz O. 1972 [“1971”]: New plants in
Cuba I. – Acta Bot. Acad. Sci. Hung. 17: 1 – 36.
IUCN 2012: IUCN Red List categories and criteria:
version 3.1, ed. 2. − Gland & Cambridge: IUCN. −
Published at http://www.iucnredlist.org/documents/
Meyer F. K. 2000: Revision der Gattung Malpighia L.
(Malpighiaceae). – Phanerog. Monogr. 23.
Roig J. T. & Acuña J. B. 1953: Familia 9. – Malpighia-
ceae. – Pp. 9 – 28 in: Alain [Liogier A. H.] 1953, Flora
de Cuba, 3. Dicotiledóneas: Malpighiaceae a Myrta-
ceae. –Contr. Ocas. Mus. Hist. Nat. Colegio “De La
Vivaldi J. L. 1979: The systematics of Malpighia L.
(Malpighiaceae). – Ph.D. thesis, Cornell University,
Ithaca, New York.