ISSN 1188-603X

No. 175 November 3, Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2


[Abstract. The original, illustrated article was written by George E. Schatz, Porter P. Lowry II, & Annick Ramisamihantanirina, Missouri Botanical Garden]

Takhtajania perrieri (Winteraceae) rediscovered in Madagascar

Spectacular finds of early Cretaceous fossil flowers during the past decade have fueled a resurgence of research on the origin of flowering plants. Now, scientists will once again have a "living fossil" to study and place in the context of other primitive angiosperms. Takhtajania perrieri (Capuron) J.-F. Leroy & Baranova, the only extant representative of the family Winteraceae occurring in the Africa/Madagascar region, has been rediscovered in northeastern Madagascar 85 years after its original finding.

At the suggestion of Peter H. Raven, beginning in 1974 with the late Alwyn Gentry, Missouri Botanical Garden botanists and their Malagasy colleagues have searched in vain at the Manongarivo Special Reserve in northwestern Madagascar where French botanist Henri Perrier de la Bathie had collected the only specimen in 1909. Then in 1994, the Malagasy plant collector Fanja Rasoavimbahoaka, carrying out botanical inventory as part of a joint program between the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) and the World Wide Fund for Nature, collected a flowering tree in the Anjahanaribe-Sud Special Reserve southwest of Andapa. The specimens were identified as Takhtajania in late May of this year by MBG botanist George E. Schatz. The new locality is 150 km to the southeast of the original collection. In June, a team of MBG Malagasy staff botanists relocated the site of the 1994 collection, and have subsequently begun to accrue material for the numerous specialized studies to be conducted in the coming months by scientists throughout the world. Preliminary field surveys indicate a large and thriving population.

Takhtajania perrieri was originally described in 1963 by the French forest botanist Rene Capuron in the genus Bubbia, known from Australia, New Caledonia and the Lord Howe Islands. On the basis of several anomalous features unique within Winteraceae (such as a putative paracarpous bicarpellate gynoecium and anomocytic stomata), Jean-Francois Leroy and Margarita Baranova in 1978 created a new genus and subfamily to accommodate the species, naming it in honor of the Russian [actually Armenian - AC] plant systematist Armen Takhtajan.

In St. Louis in June, while celebrating his 87th birthday and the publication of his latest synthesis on the classification of flowering plants, Dr. Takhtajan was presented with a specimen of Takhtajania for the Komarov Botanical Institute in St. Petersburg. Both he and the entire international botanical community anxiously await the forthcoming studies that this wonderful rediscovery will engender.

[See also:]


From: Woodland, D.W. 1997. Contemporary plant systematics. Second edition, p. 139. [See NEW BOOKS below.]

The family Winteraceae consists of 9 genera and 100 species distributed in the montane subtropics and tropics of Mexico, Central and South America, most diverse in southeastern Australasia, and absent from Africa, except Madagascar. The largest genera are Tasmania (40 species) and Bubbia (30 species).

Economically the groups is of very little value, except Drimys winteri, winter's bark from South America, which is used as a tonic locally.

Along with the Magnoliaceae, the Winteraceae is considered by most modern classifications to be one of the oldest known flowering plant families. Pollen remains attributed to the Winteraceae come from the Upper Cretaceous deposits, with other plant parts from Oligocene formations.


Woodland, D.W. 1997.
Contemporary plant sytematics. Second edition. Andrews University Press, Berrien Springs, Michigan. 619 p. ISBN 1-883925-14-2 [soft cover]. Enclosed is a compact disk with "CD-ROM Photo-atlas of vascular plants" (with 3000 photographs of vascular plants). Price: US$59.95

Ordering information: Andrews University Press, Berrien Springs, MI 49104-1700. Credit cards accepted. Phone: 616-471-6915, or 800-467-6369 (restricted to individual orders paying with a VISA or MasterCard). E-mail:

The book was written as a text book for universities and colleges, and it covers all major vascular plant families of the world. Although it is most relevant to temperate flora, it is not restricted to the temperate region. The first part of the book consists of introductory chapters on systematics, nomenclature, botanical literature, herbarium techniques, etc. The main core of the book (Chapters 6 to 10) covers about 260 families of vascular plants of the world. The final chapters (Chapters 11 to 15) cover the history of botanical classification, the origin of vascular plants, methods of plant systematics, problems of endangered species, and the role of botanical gardens.

The book serves well both as a textbook and as a botanical reference. It is richly illustrated with line drawings, black-and-white photographs, and summary diagrams. Enclosed with the book is a compact disk with about 3000 colour photographs of vascular plants from 264 plant families. (Family Winteraceae - see above - is represented by 4 pictures on the compact disk.)

The book is well written, and it is extremely user-friendly. The compact disk, on the other hand, is rather difficult to use. The authors of the CD-ROM Photo-Atlas recommend Windows 95 and Quicktime 1.1 or 2.1 to view the files. My computer-literate friend discovered that you can use a web browser (such as Netscape or Microsoft Internet Explorer) and open the Photo-Atlas files as local files. I found browsing through the pictures exciting. Imagine getting 3000 of these selected slides with your book! However, the selection of pictures is uneven in certain groups (majority of Carex pictures refer to the section Pseudocypereae), and you can find occasional mistakes ("Juncus sp." is in fact Luzula subgen. Pterodes, perhaps L. acuminata). Overall, the quality of the CD-ROM Photo-Atlas is very good.

The book gives a clear, enjoyable introduction to the taxonomy of vascular plants and it is an excellent textbook of systematic botany for college and university courses.

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