This is the first plant genus to be named after Sir David Attenborough

A close-up of the red flowers of Sirdavidia solanonna. Image: Thomas Couvreur

A new genus and species of flowering plants from the custard apple family, Annonaceae, has been discovered in the jungles of Gabon by French and Gabonese botanists.

The genus has been named Sirdavidia, after Sir David Attenborough to honour his influence on the life and careers of the scientists who discovered it.

The announcement was made in the journal PhytoKeys.

“The last thing on my mind when starting this expedition was to discover a new species, let alone a new genus,” says Dr Hervé Sauquet, senior author and Associate Professor at Université Paris-Sud. “We aimed for well-known regions in Gabon because we wanted to be sure to find the necessary flowers for our project”.

With its unusual flower structure characterised by red petals contrasting with its bright yellow loosely arranged stamens, the flowers of this newly discovered small tree did not quite fit any of the previously described genera.

DNA sequence analyses led by Dr Bonaventure Sonké, Professor at the Université de Yaoundé I in Cameroon, proved the researchers right – the newly discovered plant required the erection of a new genus to accommodate it.

The authors of the study decided to commemorate this once-in-a-lifetime discovery by naming the new genus after Sir David Attenborough. Sirdavidia is in fact the first plant genus named after him, although several plant species already bear his name.

“Sir David Attenborough has been such a wonderful and important influence in my life and the life of so many,” says Dr Thomas Couvreur. “I was really surprised when I realised that no one has named a genus after him before, so I found this discovery an excellent opportunity to honor him with a genus name.”

Sir David says he is thrilled, saying: “I know very well that such a decision is the greatest compliment that a biologist can pay to another and I am truly grateful.”

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