Authors: Joly, Simon; Francois, Lambert; Cinea, William; Clark, John L.
Publication: Systematic Botany
Year: 2023
Genera: Gesneria

The Caribbean Islands are a biodiversity hotspot characterized by a high taxonomic diversity and endemicity, suggesting that many species have yet to be discovered. Unfortunately, many of these undescribed species may go extinct before they are described because of the drastic habitat loss in these oceanic islands. In this study, we describe three new plant species of Gesneria (Gesneriaceae) that are endemic to the Massif de la Hotte in southwest Haiti, a region recently affected by extensive deforestation. Elliptical Fourier analyses of leaf shapes and DNA sequencing of five nuclear genes were used to support the species delimitations. Gesneria flava is a tall shrub with large yellow flowers, leafy sepals, and rugose leaves. Gesneria × cornuta is a hybrid between Gesneria bicolor and the newly described Gesneria flava and is morphologically intermediate between its parents. Its hybrid origin is further supported by the presence of alleles from both parents for all five nuclear genes sequenced. Finally, Gesneria radiata is a saxicolous herb with radially symmetrical corollas. The three new species described here are limited to a single mountain range in the Caribbean, the Massif de la Hotte. These recent discoveries reflect the high endemicity of this region and exemplify the urgency to conserve the remaining primary forest of Haiti in order to protect its biodiversity.