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New plant discoveries (and rediscoveries) in the Australasian tropics

A new special issue of the journal Australian Systematic Botany focused on the Australasian tropics will be published soon. Many of the papers are already available in early access at

In this special issue, eleven new species and three new genera of vascular plants and liverworts from tropical Australia are named.

In addition, many other taxa are revised and four new distribution records are documented. Importantly, two fern taxa that were presumed extinct have been rediscovered. These had not been seen since their type specimens were collected more than 70 years ago, despite careful searches of their type localities. This reminds us that for many tropical species, the original description and a handful of preserved specimens are the sum of our knowledge of their biology. Taxonomic exploration of tropical Australia is crucial if we are to conserve and manage our biodiversity in this important region.

The fern Hymenophyllum whitei, one of the species that was presumed to be extinct, having not been seen in the wild for 90 years. It was rediscovered on the remote Thornton Peak by taxonomists Ashley Field and Matt Renner in 2017.

This special issue is the second recent special issue in Australian Systematic Botany on the Australasian tropics (for the first, published in December last year, see

Together, these issues contain 24 papers. At least another 20 papers were promised by enthusiastic authors when the call for papers went out, but couldn't be completed in time. This shows that there's a great deal of existing but still-unpublished knowledge on the plants of the Australasian tropics. Of course, the body of knowledge not yet documented is likely to be even greater!

Thanks to Darren Crayn, Director of the Australian Tropical Herbarium, for contributing this article.

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