Six new species of Vaccinium (the genus containing the blueberry and cranberry) from New Guinea have just been published in the Edinburgh Journal of Botany.

These are the last six species to be published by the late George Argent who was a researcher of the family Ericaceae at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) for over 40 years. The new species descriptions were near completion at the time of his death and, as a close friend and colleague, it has been a privilege to bring these to publication for him. It is fitting that, with support from the Sibbald Trust, it has been possible to have each new species illustrated by artists Claire Banks and Rebecca Camfield who also worked closely with George.  

All of these new species are described from flowering and fruiting herbarium material but in all but one case only from a single herbarium collection. This reflects the dearth of collections from the Island of New Guinea and South East Asia in general.

Conservation assessments of these six new species conclude that one species is critically endangered, one endangered, two vulnerable and one currently of least concern. It may be that more exploration in the region will bring to light more individuals of these species but it may also be true that as habitat destruction continues that these species will disappear from the wild before we have had a chance to study them in detail.

Although these will be George’s last new species, the thousands of herbarium and living collections made during his lifetime, his hundreds of published papers and a lifetime of collaboration with researchers in the countries in which he worked will ensure that his collections and knowledge will continue to help us understand and conserve the amazing, but poorly understood, biodiversity of New Guinea and tropical South East Asia.

Argent, G., & Wilkie, P. (2020). SIX NEW SPECIES OF VACCINIUM (ERICACEAE) FROM NEW GUINEA. Edinburgh Journal of Botany, 1-15. doi:10.1017/S0960428620000104

P. Wilkie 3 June 2020.