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Paubrasilia echinata

Brazilwood now has its own genus

Miguel Boyayan Paubrasilia echinata: new scientific name for this speciesMiguel Boyayan

The reddish heartwood of the Atlantic Forest tree commonly known as brazilwood was a source of dye during Brazil’s colonial era and is still used to craft high-quality violin bows. Also known as pau-brasil, the tree lent its name to its homeland. Now the tree officially has a new scientific name and has become the first and only species of a new genus. One of the conclusions reached by researchers from Canada, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Brazil who conducted phylogenetic analyses of DNA samples from 173 of the 205 species belonging to the Caesalpinia group was that the brazilwood tree is so unique that it merits its own genus (Phytokeys, October 12, 2016). Originally named Caesalpinia echinata by Lamarck in 1785, the species has now been rechristened Paubrasilia echinata. According to the authors of the study – which include plant taxonomist Luciano Paganucci de Queiroz, from the State University of Feira de Santana (UEFS) in Bahia State – the genetic material and morphological traits of pau-brasil render the tree distinct enough to warrant its own generic rank. In their paper, the researchers propose a new generic classification for the entire Caesalpinia group, previously divided into 21 genera. The new proposal classifies species into 27 genera, one of which is provisional (Ticanto).

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