Beautiful New Species of Iris Discovered in South Africa

by johnsmith

Botanists have described a new high-altitude species of the genus Geissorhiza from the Langeberg Mountains of South Africa.

The Cherry Satin flower (Geissorhiza seracina). Image credit: Goldblatt et al., doi: 10.1016/j.sajb.2022.09.014.

The Cherry Satin flower (Geissorhiza seracina). Image credit: Goldblatt et al., doi: 10.1016/j.sajb.2022.09.014.

Geissorhiza is a large genus of small, corm bearing perennial flowering plants in the family Iridaceae.

First described as a genus in 1803, it is endemic in the Cape Province of South Africa and is restricted to the winter rainfall area of the south and west coasts and immediate interior.

Geissorhiza is defined by its asymmetric corms with hard, often woody tunics, herbaceous bracts, and long style with short recurved branches.

“New Iridaceae species are rarely found, and I mostly find new legume species,” said Brian du Preez, a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town.

“It is not often that a new species turns out to be so beautiful.”

Scientifically named Geissorhiza seracina (common name is the Cherry Satin flower), the new species is known from a single locality on the central Langeberg Mountains in Western Cape, South Africa.

“I was hiking a two-day long trail of 40 km with friend and mentor, Professor Peter Linder, on the Boosmansbos Wilderness trail to Grootberg, when I first found the plants in early December 2021,” du Preez said.

“I took photos, but did not collect a specimen. It was only when I got back home and sent the photos to Dr. John Manning, an expert on the Iris family from the Compton Herbarium at the South African National Biodiversity Institute, that we realized it is likely a new species.”

“A week later I went back up the mountain, hiking 34 km in nine hours, to collect a herbarium specimen for examination and description of the morphology of the species.”

“Some bulbs were collected for ex situ conservation in the Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden.”

With this latest discovery, the number of Geissorhiza species from South Africa now stands at 106, of which 24 were discovered since 1985.

“While the genus is taxonomically relatively well-understood, new species continue to be discovered in outlying or less accessible parts of the Greater Cape Floristic Region,” du Preez said.

“For now, this beautiful species is known only from this one locality.”

The discovery is reported in a paper in the South African Journal of Botany.


P. Goldblatt et al. 2022. Geissorhiza seracina (Iridaceae: Crocoideae), a new high-altitude species from the Langeberg in southwestern Western Cape, South Africa, with notes on G. outeniquensis. South African Journal of Botany 150: 1022-1025; doi: 10.1016/j.sajb.2022.09.014

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