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Iowa State University botanists identify new species of North American bamboo

AMES, Iowa -- Two Iowa State University botanists and their colleague at the University of North Carolina have discovered a new species of North American bamboo in the hills of Appalachia. It is the third known native species of the hardy grass. The other two were discovered more than 200 years ago.

Lynn Clark, Iowa State professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology, and Ph.D. student Jimmy Triplett study bamboo diversity and evolution. They first heard about "hill cane" from Alan Weakley, a botanist at the University of North Carolina. Although the plant was known to the people in the area, its distinctiveness was not recognized.

Hill cane differs from the other two native North American bamboo species commonly known as switch cane and river cane in an important way: It drops its leaves in the fall.

"That's why it was recognized locally as being different," Clark said. "It's pretty uncommon for bamboos to drop their leaves."

Clark should know. She's an internationally recognized bamboo expert. She had previously discovered 74 new species of bamboo.

"All the other new ones came from Central and South America," she said. "It's so exciting to find a new species in our own backyard!"

Her 75th species discovery has been named Arundinaria appalachiana. Clark, Triplett and Weakley recently completed the intricate process botanists are obliged to follow to officially name and describe a newfound species. Following rules laid out in the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, they prepared a short description of the plant in Latin and a longer one in English, and provided drawings and other information to make a strong case for the recognition of A. appalachiana as a distinct species of bamboo. They submitted their evidence in a manuscript to the scientific journal Sida, Contributions to Botany, convincing the peer reviewers that the bamboo they discovered was new. Their study was published
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Contact: Teddi Barron
tbarron@iastate.edu
515-294-4778
Iowa State University
12-Mar-2007


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