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New rare species named after Hortus prefect Paul Kessler

A new plant species was named after Paul Kessler, prefect of the Leiden Hortus botanicus. Kessler discovered the small tree, which is related to the kiwifruit, himself.

The new species is called Saurauia kessleri. Kessler's colleague Khoon Meng Wong from the Singapore Botanic Gardens presents a description of it in a book which came out last July. According to the international nomenclature rules, this makes the name official.  The book describes a total of 62 new species.

Expedition in Berau

Kessler is prefect of the Leiden Hortus botanicus, but also a specialist in the field of plants form Southeast-Asia. In 1996, during an expedition in Berau, Indonesia, he collected flowers and leaves of the then unknown species. During the expedition Kessler and colleagues determined the plant to be from the Saurauia genus, he explains. The species has been described based on this material. This makes it the so-called type specimen. It is also the only known specimen of the species so far. The material is being kept in Leiden.

Kiwi family

The very rare Saurauia kessleri is a treelet of circa 3 meters tall. A distinctive characteristic are the triangular scales at the bottom of the leaf. The tree has flowers in cymes that are about 1 centimeter in diameter. The genus Saurauia is a part of the kiw family, which contains species like kiwi and mini kiwi and several other species that have edible fruits. But no fruits are to be expected in the supermarket form the Kessler tree, he says: the fruits of the treelet are very small and not edible.

The type sepcimen of Saurauia kessleri