Gingersrus Database Taxon ID 3839
OLD NAME: Costus vinosus
NEW NAME: Costus vinosus
NAME CHANGE NOTES:
FULL SCIENTIFIC NAME: Costus vinosus Maas
STATUS : accepted
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Costus vinosus is an accepted species of neotropical Costus that was described by Paul Maas in 1976. The type specimen was collected in 1973 by Robert Dressler (No. 4406) along the Rio Guanche in ColÃ³n, Panama. It is easily recognized by its dark green waxy leaves with purple undersides and dark purple stems with inflated, cupped ligules. It grows to about one meter tall. The inflorescence is ovoid in shape with dark red bracts in the covered parts and green with red margins on the visible parts. The flowers are the open labellum type with creamy to pink corolla and a dark red winged labellum - at least as described by Maas.
The problem with this species is that there are two very different flower types, and it is not known which one is the natural one that evolved over time and which one is a more recent hybrid. The other form is solid yellow and forming an open tube on an inflorescence that is somewhat pendent or nodding. That form was also collected by Robert Dressler (Dressler s/n) along the Rio Guanche 13 years later in 1986 according to the records at Marie Selby Gardens where it was first accessioned.
The type form (Dressler 4406) was accessioned to Waimea Gardens in Hawaii (Waimea #93P232), and John Mood grew it in his garden in Hawaii and sent me photos of the plant in flower, having the same form as described by Maas. I saw the other yellow flowering form myself at Marie Selby Gardens and photographed it in 2000.
The species was originally described and known ONLY from the type locality along the lower Rio Guanche in Panama, but it has now disappeared from that location which has since been converted to pasture land. I searched extensively for it in 2012 and others who have searched in recent years have not found it there either. There are only two other locations where it was reported by voucher speciemens in the past. In 2014 I assessed this species for the IUCN Red List and it is now classified as being Critically Endangered and Possibly Extinct in the wild. Further details are available at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/56301925.
In November 2015 I went back to central Panama, and accompanied by Carla Black I found this species still extant in the wild. One population was found on the Santa Rita Ridge, in Colon Province. It was growing in muddy soil along a creek in deep shade. The plants here were not in flower but there were a couple of mature inflorescences so I could collect some seeds. The mature bracts of these plants were dark red in color unlike the bracts seen in either of the Dressler collections.
Carla and I also hiked along the Rio Boqueron on the old Spanish Real trail in primary forest in the Chagres Nacional Park and found several more plants scattered over a 2-3 km stretch of the trail. These also were not in flower, and they did not have any mature inflorescences or indications of any seedlings. They appeared to be propagating solely by fallen stems. An article was written about these discoveries and published in the quarterly Bulletin of the Heliconia Society International, Vol. 22, No 3, September 2016.
Seeds were collected from the Santa Rita Ridge locality and eventually they produced several different plant forms that have been assigned separate accession numbers here at Le Jardin OmbragÃ©.
So it seems that Costus vinosus is either a very unstable species prone to variation in its flower form, or it is prone to cross pollination with other species making natural hybrids. I had theorized that the Santa Rita plant had hybridized with Costus allenii as the pollen parent since it has similar flowers to the ones produced there and it is present in the immediate area.
Recently I have been in communication with Ramon Dapena who lives in Panama and has been exploring the mountains to the west of the C. vinosus type locality. He has found several populations of C. vinosus, but so far none in flower. It seems that the flowering season for this species peaks in June and July, so perhaps he will soon have success in finding it in flower.
A preliminary phylogeny was completed by Eugenio Valderrama and his associates in the Chelsea Specht Lab at Cornell University and was published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science in September 2022. DNA was extracted from a sample of the Santa Rita Ridge population (Maas M9568) and was found to be in a separate clade in an early lineage. My collection (the presumed hybrid) from Santa Rita Ridge was also sampled and sequenced for the whole genome. It fell in a group with 4 other presumed hybrids of various species. I believe it is important to include both the Dressler collections from Rio Guanche in the phylogeny to see if any further light can be shed on the mystery of the polymorphic flowers of this species. Unfortunately the collections in Hawaii with the other flower form have been nearly lost.
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