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Three new species of Saussurea were found in China

Compositae (Asteraceae) is one of the largest families of seed plants, with about 1600 genera, 25000 ~ 35000 species, widely distributed in the world. China has about 250 genera, about 2400 species. Saussurea is the largest genus of Compositae in China. Some species of Saussurea are the origin of Snow Lotus, a kind of famous traditional medicinal plant in China. China is the home of Snow Lotus, with most of species. Through years of research and field investigation, Dr. CHEN Yousheng's team of South China Botanical Garden of Chinese Academy of Sciences has recently published three new species of Saussurea, namely Saussurea xinjiangensis, Saussurea yilingii and Saussurea sagittifolia, adding three new members to the genus Saussurea.

Every species is a legend of the earth's biodiversity, and the discovery of every new species has a story. These three new species were discovered by chance in recent years. Before that, they have never been discovered or collected, which indicates that field investigation is of great significance for the discovery of unknown biodiversity.

In August 2014, Dr. CHEN Yousheng carried out an investigation on Compositae plants in Xinjiang. In a deserted desert area of Tuoli County, he accidentally found a strange specimen of Saussurea. By comparing the species with other species of Saussurea from Xinjiang and Central Asia, it is preliminarily identified as a new species, and then confirmed as a new species through molecular phylogenetic study of chloroplast genome. It was published in the Nordic Journal of Botany in September 2020 and named as "Saussurea xinjiangensis" (

In September 2015, Dr. CHEN Yousheng led a team to investigate the plant biodiversity of Muli County, Sichuan Province, in the hinterland of Hengduan Mountains. He found a species of Saussurea close to Saussurea globosa. But it is strange that although this plant has the odor and physical characteristics similar to the species of Saussurea subgenus Amphilaena. It does not have the most prominent characteristic of subgenus Amphilaena, namely, the membranous colorful bracts. With the question of "whether it is a member of subgenus Amphilaena", they studied this species by molecular systematics and morphological comparison with related species. Molecular systematics of chloroplast genome showed that it is indeed a relative species of subgenus Amphilaena, and it is a new species. In memory of Prof. CHEN Yilin, a famous expert in Compositae in China, this new species is named "Saussurea yilingii ", which was published in Phytotaxa in July 2020. Therefore, Saussurea subgenus Amphilaena has the first unique species without bracts. Saussurea yilingii is currently found in one place, and the number of individuals is extremely rare. Saussurea yilingii grows in the edge of fir forest at an altitude of about 4000 meters. Due to its small population and unique scientific research value, the species was rated as s Critically Endangered (CR) according to the IUCN red list categories and criteria (

In early August 2020, Prof. YI Sirong photographed a plant of Saussurea with flower bud in Dabashan Mountains, Sichuan Province. After seeing the photos, Dr. CHEN Yousheng initially identified it as a new species. In September, Dr. XU Liansheng and YI Siyong visited Daba Mountain again respectively, and collected flowering specimens of the plant. Dr. XU Liansheng found more individuals of the plant at higher altitudes. Through the interview with local people, they know that this plant is used as herbal medicine in Sichuan, and the herb collectors often dig it. Because of its unique sagittiform leaves, this species can be easily distinguished from other species of Saussurea. Therefore, this species is named "Saussurea sagittifolia", which was published in Phytotaxa in November 2020 (

Dr. CHEN Yousheng has published 41 new species of Saussurea in the course of compiling the volume of the genus Saussurea in Flora of Pan-Himalaya (published in 2015). Up to now, a total of 44 new species of Saussurea have been discovered by Dr. CHEN. This shows that the diversity of genus Saussurea in China is very rich, and the related medicinal plant resources need to be further explored, developed and utilized.

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