New species of Hemlock tree discovered on Korean Island

A new species of Hemlock tree has been discovered on a small Korean Island. This is the second time in a decade that a new species has been found.

The Ulleungdo hemlock (Tsuga ulleungensis) was found late last year on a small Korean island less than half of the size of Washington D.C. Scientists are hoping that this tree could have characteristics to help North American Hemlocks fight a Japanese insect called hemlock woolly adelgid. Unfortunately, the Ullengdo hemlock is so rare it’s already being considered for the endangered species list.

About ten years ago, Nathan Havill, was the studying genetics of Asian hemlocks trees to understand why they can resist the adelgid when the Eastern hemlock can’t. He discovered that the DNA from a group of hemlocks at the Arnold Arboretum didn’t match any known species. The arboretum’s records stated that the trees came from an island called Ulleungdo, about 80 miles east of the Korean peninsula.

Peter Del Tredici, traveled to the tiny volcanic island in 2008 to collect leaves for further study. After putting all the data together, the team announced the new species—Tsuga ulleungensis in late 2017. It’s likely the first temperate conifer discovered since 2002, when a new kind of cypress was found in Vietnam.

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