Research Article
Research Article
Argostemma ehuangzhangense (Rubiaceae), a new species from Guangdong, China
expand article infoZhong-Cheng Liu§, Jia Liu, Wan-Yi Zhao, Qiang Fan, Hua-Gu Ye|, Lei Wang§, Wen-Bo Liao
‡ Sun Yan-Sen University, Guangzhou, China
§ Capital Normal University, Beijing, China
| South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou, China
Open Access


Argostemma ehuangzhangense, a new Rubiaceae species from E’huangzhang Nature Reserve, Guangdong Province, China, is here described and illustrated. A morphological comparison between the new species and its putative relatives, A. lamxayanum, A. laotica and A. verticillatum, is presented. The new species is mostly similar to A. laotica, but they can be distinguished from each other since Argostemma ehuangzhangense presents solitary flower (vs. 2-flowered inflorescences), flower lobes 4 (vs. 5) and anthers opening by longitudinal slits (vs. apical pores). In a preliminary IUCN Red List status of Argostemma ehuangzhangense this species is assigned as Vulnerable (VU).


Argostemma ehuangzhangense, China, Guangdong, new species, Rubiaceae


The genus Argostemma Wall. (Wallich 1824) belongs to the coffee family, Rubiaceae (subfamily: Rubioideae), and in its own tribe Argostemmateae (Bremer 1987; Bremer and Manen 2000). Argostemma is a large genus of more than 160 species and is widely distributed in the Old World tropics with most species occurring in SE Asia and two species in west tropical Africa (Bremer 1989; Sridith and Puff 2000; Mabberley 2017; Lanorsavanh et al. 2020). In China, six species of Argostemma were recorded (Chen and Taylor 2011). Key morphological characters of Argostemma are (i) opposite or verticillate leaves that are slightly to markedly anisophyllous, (ii) 4- or 5-merous flowers without nectaries, (iii) white and rotate corollas, (iv) Inner surface of corolla tube glabrous, (v) free anthers or coherent into a tube, (vi) anthers with opening by longitudinal slits or apical pore, and (vii) sometimes connective prolonged at the apex (Puff et al. 1995; Chen and Taylor 2011).

An unknown Argostemma species was discovered during recent field surveys conducted between April 2017 and May 2018 at the E’huangzhang Nature Reserve, Yangchun City, Guangdong Province. The flowers of the unknown Argostemma species are clearly 4-merous and it differs from all known Argostemma species in China. In addition, we compared the unknown Argostemma from E’huangzhang Nature Reserve against Argostemma species occurring in Southeastern Asian which presented morphological characters divergent from those in our specimen. Thus, it was concluded that the unknown Argostemma from E’huangzhang Nature Reserve is a new species, which is hereby described and illustrated here.

Materials and methods

This study was conducted based on living and dried herbarium specimens collected from nearby Wufu Waterfall in the E’huangzhang Nature Reserve. Herbarium specimens at IBSC, KEP and KUN, as well as types at IBSC, K and NY, were examined for morphological comparisons (acronyms follow Thiers 2022). Taxonomic literature of the genus for Thailand (Sridith and Puff 2000; Sridith and Larsen 2004; Sridith 2007, 2009, 2012), China (Chen and Taylor 2011), Vietnam (Vu et al. 2020), Laos (Lanorsavanh and Chantaranothai 2013, 2016, 2019; Lanorsavanh et al. 2020), and Myanmar (Kress et al. 2003; Tanaka et al. 2010) were consulted.


Argostemma ehuangzhangense is similar to A. lamxayanum and A. laotica by sharing the following morphological features: leaves isophyllous, verticillate or pseudo-verticillate; and leaves, pedicels, calyx and petals pubescent (Table 1). However, Argostemma ehuangzhangense is distinct from these species by its flower solitary (vs. flower (1-)2–10); peduncles absent (vs. peduncles short or 1–3.5 cm); flower 4-merous (vs. 5-merous); anther length 1.2–1.5 mm (vs. longer than 2 mm) and anthers longitudinal slits (vs. apical pore) (Table 1).

Table 1.

Comparison of morphological characters between Argostemma ehuangzhangense, A. lamxayanum, A. laotica and A. verticillatum.

Characters A. ehuangzhangense A. lamxayanum A. laotica A. verticillatum
Plant height (cm) 1–4 2–12 1–2.5 2–10
Leaf blade shape ovate to elliptic elliptic, oblong or ovate elliptic or oblanceolate lanceolate or ovate-lanceolate
Leaf blade size (cm) 0.5–2.5×0.3–1.2 0.7–4×0.4–2.0 1–1.7×0.4–0.7 1–7× 0.7–2.5
Lateral leaf veins 3–4-paired 4–8-paired 3–4-paired 4–7-paired
Leaf indumentum both surfaces antrorse strigose (abaxial sparsely pubescent on the vein) both surfaces hirsute both surfaces pubescent both surfaces glabrous or sparsely pubescent
Inflorescences flowers solitary; peduncles absent umbelliform,1–10-flowered; peduncles 1–3.5 cm, glabrous flowered; peduncles very short, pubescent umbelliform, 1–3-flowered, composed cymose; peduncles 1–3 cm long, glabrous
Pedicel 8–18 mm, pubescent 4–12 mm, pubescent 6–7 mm, pubescent 5–10 mm, glabrous
Calyx lobes 4, pubescent outside 5, pubescent outside 5, pubescent outside 5, glabrous both side
Corolla lobes 4, pubescent outside 5, pubescent outside 5, pubescent both side 5, glabrous both side
Filament length (mm) 3.5–4 2.5–3 2.5–3.2 1–1.2 (-2.5)
Anthers coherence connivent free connivent free
Anther length (mm) 1.2–1.5 2.5–3 2.2–2.5 mm 2–3
Anther dehiscence longitudinal slits apical pores apical pores apical pores

Amongst the Argostemma species known in China, A. verticillatum is morphologically similar to Argostemma ehuangzhangense. Argostemma verticillatum differs from the latter by its (i) glabrous stem, pedicels and calyx, (ii) inflorescence cymose and comprised of 1–3 umbelliform, (iii) flowers 5-merous, and (iv) filaments short (Table 1).

Taxonomic treatment

Argostemma ehuangzhangense H.G.Ye, Jia Liu & W.B.Liao, sp. nov.



China. Guangdong Province: Yangchun City, Bajia Town, E’huangzhang Nature Reserve, near the Wufu Waterfall, 21°52'N, 111°25'E, a.s.l. 720 m, 3 May 2018, Wan-Yi Zhao, Jia Liu, Qiao-Ling Ding, Fan Ye YC-2018-02 (holotype: SYS!, Barcode SYS00236851; isotype: SYS!, Barcode SYS00236852) (Figs 1, 2).

Figure 1. 

Argostemma ehuangzhangense A individuals in their natural habitat B flowering individuals C fruiting individuals D side view of an individuals with tuber E leaf blade adaxial surface view F leaf blade abaxial surface view G flower, internal corolla surface view H folwer, external corolla surface view I capsule, top view J stamen K style and stigma tightly enclosed by stamens L ovary longitudinal section view. (photographs (A–G) were taken by Wan-Yi Zhao in the original habitat area of E’huangzhang and photographs (H–L) were taken by Jia Liu in SYS Herbarium in May 2018).


Argostemma ehuangzhangense is similar to A. lamxayanum and A. laotica in its habit and pseudo-verticillate leaves, but differs in having terminal solitary 4-merous flowers, short anthers (1.2–1.5 mm long) opening by longitudinal slits.

Figure 2. 

Argostemma ehuangzhangense A flower B fruit C style and stigma D habit of a mature plant E multicellular trichomes present on the stem, pedicel and ovary F corolla G organization of stamens H stamen (Drawn from living plants by Yun-Xiao Liu).


Terrestrial perennial herbs, 1–4 cm tall, attached to the substrate by tubers flattened globose, with a few roots. Stems erect, densely pubescent, with one pair of scale-like leaves at the lower middle portion. Leaves four per individual, clustered at the stem apex, verticillate, anisophyllous, petiole 0.5–2 long mm; blades membranous or thinly papery when dried, ovate to elliptic, 5–25 × 3–12 mm, cuneate at base, acute to obtuse at apex, margins entire; adaxial surface green, densely antrorse strigose; abaxial surface grey-white with white particles, sparsely pubescent on the midrib vein and lateral veins; lateral veins 3- or 4-pairs; stipules deciduous. Flowers solitary, terminal; pedicels 0.8–1.8 cm, with densely pubescent, trichomes multicellular. Calyx densely pubescent, trichomes multicellular, hypanthium portion obovoid; lobes 4, subtriangular, 1–1.3 × 1.1–1.4 mm, abaxially pubescent, adaxially glabrous. Corolla white, rotate, external surface sparsely pubescent, internal surface glabrous, corolla tube 0.3–0.6 mm long; corolla lobes 4, oblong-lanceolate, 3–4 × 1.5–2 mm. Stamens 4; filaments free, 3.5–4 mm, exserted; anthers 1.2–1.5 mm long, coherent into a tube, dehiscent longitudinally. Ovary 2-locular, ovules numerous in each locule; style filiform, ca. 4 mm, with short pubescence, stigma capitate, exserted. Capsule obovoid, 2–5 mm in diameter, 1–3 mm long, pubescent, crowned by a persistent calyx, without ribs or furrows.


This species is recorded flowering in March-May and fruiting in May-September.


Argostemma ehuangzhangense is endemic to E’huangzhang Nature Reserve, southwestern Guangdong Province. It is currently known only from two populations recorded in county of Dianbai and city of Yangchun.


Growing along river on wet sandstone under the evergreen broad-leaf forest at 400–750 m a.s.l.


The specific epithet ‘ehuangzhangense’ is derived from the type locality, E’huangzhang Nature Reserve of the Guangdong Province, in China. This area is the oldest geological platform in the Guangdong Province, in which many endemic species occur (Wang et al. 2003; 2004; Ding et al. 2018). The new species is also expected to occur in the Yunkaishan National Nature Reserve, Maoming City, because this area shares a similar tectonic history with E’huangzhang. Therefore, we proposed for the vernacular name of the species as yuèxīxuěhuā (粤西雪花).

Preliminary conservation status

The species is endemic to the Guangdong Province. According to our field survey, there are only two localities in which Argostemma ehuangzhangense is recorded and each population consists of 100–250 individuals. The number of mature individuals of Argostemma ehuangzhangense is more than 400, but less than 1000. Thus, we believe that Argostemma ehuangzhangense would be considered VU (Vulnerable) in an official IUCN Red List assessment (IUCN Standards and Petitions Subcommittee 2022) according to the D criterion.


China. Guangdong Province: Yangchun City, Bajia Town, E’huangzhang Nature Reserve, 21°52'N, 111°25'E, a.s.l. 704 m, 29 Apr. 2017, Hua-Gu Ye, Zhong-Cheng Liu YHG-06 (SYS); same locality, 5 Aug. 2017, Hua-Gu Ye, Wan-Yi Zhao, Zhong-Cheng Liu YC2017-35 (SYS); Yangchun City, Bajia Town, 21°52'N, 111°25'E, a.s.l. 750 m, 1 Aug. 2001, Hua-Gu Ye 6119 (IBSC); Dianbai County, Luokeng Town, Shuangjifeng, 21°52'N, 111°21'E, a.s.l. 400 m, 8 Aug. 2001, Hua-Gu Ye 6427 (IBSC).


We are grateful to Jia-Wen Pan, Nan-Nan Liu, Qiao-Ling Ding, Fan Ye for their assistance during field collections. This work was partially supported by the Fourth Survey of Chinese Traditional Medicine Resources (2019-702-001; 2019-721-001) and the Guangzhou Science and Technology Program (2019.4–2022.3) under Grant (201903010076).


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