Faculty of Science, CMU has discovered a new plant species with Thai name and specific epithet graciously granted by HRH Professor Dr. Princess Chulabhorn Walailak

19 August 2019

CMU Corporate Communication and Alumni Relations Center (CCARC)

Faculty of Science, Chiang Mai University held a press conference of a discovery of a new plant species with Thai name and specific epithet graciously granted by Her Royal Highness Professor Dr. Princess Chulabhorn Walailak by the honor of Associate Professor Dr. Sampan Singharajwarapan, Vice President of Chiang Mai University; Associate Professor Dr. Komkrit Leksakul, Deputy Director in Budget Allocation Mission, Thailand Sciences, Research and Innovation Promotional Committee Agency (TSRI); Professor Dr. Thoranin
Chairuangsri, Dean, Faculty of Science, Chiang Mai University accompanied with a researcher team led by Dr. Tanawat Chaowasku, Department of Biology, Faulty of Science, together with Ms. Anissara Damthongdee, Graduate Student in a PhD Program in Biodiversity and Ethnobiology, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Chiang Mai University, and Mr. Kithisak Aongyong, Independent Researcher had altogether informed in a press conference on Sunday, 18th August, 2019 at Hall 1, 40th Anniversary Building, Faculty of Science.

The researcher team led by Dr. Tanawat Chaowasku, Lecturer, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Chiang Mai University, together with Ms. Anissara Damthongdee, Graduate Student in a PhD Program in Biodiversity and Ethnobiology, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Chiang Mai University, and Mr. Kithisak Aongyong, Independent Researcher had conducted a research on “Taxonomy and phylogeny of rare and lesser known Thai plants in the family Annocaceae” for conservation and sustainable utilization”. This research project is a part of the “Flora of Thailand Project” and was partially financially supported by the “Thailand Research Fund (TRF)” (under TRF Grant for New Researcher, TRG), which is currently known as the “Thailand Sciences, Research and Innovations Promotional Committee Agency (TSRI)”.

The research project resulted in the discovery of a new plant species in the genus “Mitrephora (Blume) Hook. f. & Thompson” of the flowering plant family Annonaceae from forests on a limestone hill in Nakhon Si Thammarat Province. This species is unique in being treelets not exceeding 2 m tall and exhibiting the tiniest flowers in the genus, about 1 cm or less in diameter. The flowers are white, then turning cream, and are moderately fragrant, similar to the scent of Mok–Wrightia religiosa (Teijsm. & Binn.) Benth. ex
Kurz flowers. The inner petals apically tightly adhere to form a dome-shaped structure, leaving three openings between adjacent inner petals. The fruits are red-orange when ripe.

With high gratitude to Her Royal Highness Professor Dr. Princess Chulabhorn Walailak Akkararajkumaree Kromphrasrisawangkawat Worakatiyarajnaree, who are deeply interested in Chemistry, Biological and Medical Sciences, and Environmental Science, especially the Multidisciplinary Science of Natural Products, and has initiated the establishment of the “Chulabhorn Research Institute” to promote and conduct the above-mentioned scientific research for the improvement of mankind’s quality of life, as well as to praise and cerebrate Her Royal Highness Professor Dr. Princess Chulabhorn Walailak on the occasion of completing her 5th Cycle Birthday Anniversary, Chiang Mai University has requested Her Royal Highness Professor Dr. Princess Chulabhorn Walailak for Thai name and specific epithet of the new plant species. She has graciously granted the Thai name “Bhrom Chulabhorn” and specific epithet “chulabhorniana” to be the scientific name “Mitrephora chulabhorniana Damth., Aongyong & Chaowasku” for the new species, which are most honorable to the researcher team and Chiang Mai University.

“Bhrom Chulabhorn” or “Mitrephora chulabhorniana Damth., Aongyong & Chaowasku” has been published in the international journal “Brittonia” on May 7, 2019. Inhabiting a limestone hill covered with dry evergreen forests in Sichon District, Nakhon Si Thammarat Province outside protected areas of Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, it is a critically endangered species with only less than 10 individuals found. The limestone ecosystem is fragile and usually consists of endemic species found nowhere else in the world. So, if these species have been threatened, they are likely to be of high extinction risk, which is the forthcoming situation for “Bhrom Chulaborn” due to the expansion of rubber tree and oil palm plantations, as well as possible destructive limestone explosion for commercial uses. It is urgent for the Royal Thai Government and Thai people to protect limestone hills in Thailand in order to prevent endemic species from extinction. Besides, we can use biotechnology, especially plant tissue culture in order to substantially reproduce “Bhrom Chulabhorn”; then we can bring them to plant in botanic gardens or other governmental areas for conservation purposes. This will reduce the chance of extinction for “Bhrom Chulabhorn”.

The discovery of “Bhrom Chulabhorn” is fundamental upstream research that is indispensable for further development in various midstream and downstream scientific branches such as conservation and sustainable utilization. The lack of basic studies like the discovery of “Bhrom Chulabhorn” clearly reduces the country’s opportunity to develop ground-breaking downstream discoveries. The development of drugs from herbal plants is one of the sustainable utilization approaches. Several species in the genus Mitrephora have secondary metabolites that exhibit anticancer activities. Consequently, it is interesting that “Bhrom Chulabhorn” may have secondary metabolites that show similar anticancer activities as well, which could be eventually developed to anticancer drugs. The cancer treatments and developments of anticancer drugs are one of the aspirations of Her Royal Highness Professor Dr. Princess Chulabhorn Walailak, the beloved Princess of Thai people.
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