Identity of our ‘mystery tree’ published

Our group has been involved in unravelling the botanical identity of an unusual tree found on Mt Stuart.

Mystery Tree
Mystery Tree

The identity of this tree has been formally established with the December 2012 publication of an article “Phylogenetic revision of Backhousieae (Myrtaceae): Neogene divergence, a revised circumscription of Backhousia and two new species” in the scientific journal Australian Systematic Botany 2012 (25) p 404-417.

Read the background story here.

Mystery tree update 2012

In April 2010 we reported on “mystery” trees that our group had noticed at Mt Stuart and failed to identify. Further work depended on collection of flowers and developing fruit so the next flowering was eagerly awaited.

Apart from a tiny branch which bore a few flowers late in 2010 – none of the trees flowered in the 2010/2011 wet season! Later analysis of rainfall patterns indicate that flowering occurred in early 2010 and 2012 after a long dry season of 7 months, broken by good rainfall in December.

Having failed to flower and fruit in the 2010/11 season it was impossible to make a clear resolution of the tree’s identity.

This led to some frustration as we were making regular visits every 3 to 4 weeks, and it was not until 13th January 2012 that we found a large number of the trees covered with buds, and the first of the flowers on show.

This led to a flurry of visits over the next three week, as the flowering and development of fruit happened very quickly and specimens were collected at all stages of development.

Whilst these specimens were collected, further work at JCU included preparation of slides for microscopic analysis of the cell structure of leaves, stems etc and similar examination of the flowers and fruits as available.

The preliminary description of the new discovery was also prepared ready for publication. The genus of the proposed name has been established by analysis as Backhousia, but John has the honour of nominating the species name to be given.

The species name of tetraptera describes the very distinct four winged fruit.

Following this story from the start has been a wonderful experience and we have learned so much about the intricacies of plant taxonomy and the need for careful and detailed analysis when dealing with plant identification.

So Backhousia tetraptera is now the scientific name, but it will always remembered as our Mystery Tree!

For more information about formal publication of this species name, please see here.

Do you know Cleistanthus dallachyanus?

Cleistanthus dallachyanus (Euphorbiaceae) is a tree that occurs in considerable numbers in some of our coastal ranges, often in large stands creating a forest canopy. It ranges from Townsville to Rockhampton, and is named for John Dallachy 1808-71, who collected extensively for Mueller in North Queensland, and was a member of the original expedition to settle the Cardwell area in 1861.