Species of the month
Some facts about this coniferous shrub or small tree:
Height: 3–6 m (rarely 10 m).
Trunk diameter: 30–50 cm.
Habitat: open scrub (maquis minier) on ultramafic serpentine soils rich in nickel and other metal ores.
Distribution: New Caledonia (endemic).
Surviving number: ten populations, mostly small.
Conservation status: Near Threatened (IUCN 3.1)
First described: by Carrière in 1867, originally named as Eutacta pancheri.
Neocallitropsis pancheri is a very unusual species in the cypress family Cupressaceae, unique in its leaves being ranked in eight rows, rather than the usual four or six rows. It is one of the many conifers unique to New Caledonia, where it is threatened by industrial mining (as it occurs on metal-rich sites rich in nickel ore) and also by wildfires.
The foliage is superficially similar to, and was originally mistaken for, species of Araucaria in the section Eutacta (family Araucariaceae; then treated as a distinct genus), and was only realised to be in the Cupressaceae when the cones were examined by Compton in 1922. He described a new genus Callitropsis for it ("resembling Callitris", the genus to which it is most similar in cone structure), but he did not realise that this name had already been used for a different plant by Ørsted in 1864. A new name was therefore needed for it, with Neocallitropsis ("new Callitropsis") being described for it by Florin in 1944. A good example of the many perils facing botanists describing new plants.
See also: Species of previous months