Background: Christisonia is a little-documented and poorly studied root-parasitic genus in the Orobanchaceae occurring in India, China, Indochina and part of the Malesian region. Recent collection of a Christisonia taxon in Kinabalu Park in Sabah, Borneo, taxonomically identical to earlier Sabah collections that have hitherto not been recorded in the literature, led to an assessment of the taxonomic identity of the species against Christisonia scortechinii, C. siamensis, C. sinensis and related species.
Results: Some taxa in China, Indochina, the Malay Peninsula, and the Philippines are morphologically identical to the Borneo taxon except in the number of calyx lobes, but differ by several distinctive characters from other well-distinguished species in the region. Studies of dried herbarium specimens, augmented by photographic images of different stages of fresh flowering material and a scrutiny of available descriptions confirmed that the calyx has two primary lobes in the bud that may separate into 3–5 portions, giving a variable number of apparent lobes in specimen material collected at different localities. This new scrutiny of the calyx also permitted an improved description of the calyx differences that separate Christisonia and the closely related Aeginetia, which have not been clearly elucidated in the past.
Conclusions: Christisonia scortechinii Prain (Orobanchaceae), the only species that was described as having an initially spathaceous calyx among species of this root-parasitic genus, is newly recorded for Borneo (including Kinabalu Park, where its presence has been overlooked). The range of the species in mainland Southeast Asia, previously extended from Peninsular Malaysia to Thailand and Vietnam, is here further extended to Laos and China. Christisonia wightii Elmer (relevant to the Philippines) and C. sinensis Beck (China) are reduced to synonymy.