In 2000, Kew palm botanist Bill Baker and his Indonesian collaborators found a palm in remote rainforests in far western New Guinea that had not been seen for almost 130 years. Originally described by the great Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari, who discovered it in 1872, the palm has been the subject of a long dispute because experts have been unable to agree on which genus it belongs to. However, recent evidence has shown that none of these experts, including Kew’s great Victorian director Sir Joseph Hooker, got it right. With colleagues from Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Florida and Aarhus University in Denmark, Bill Baker analysed the DNA of the troublesome palm and found that it could not be placed in any known genus. The palm needed a whole new genus all to itself.
Choosing the right name for a new plant is always a challenge. Bill and his colleagues decided to honour John Dransfield, who recently retired as head of palm research at Kew and has made enormous contributions to the world of palms, by naming the new genus Dransfieldia.
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Search Kew's electronic Plant Information Centre for scientific information about Dransfieldia