‘Ghost’ orchid that grows in the dark among new plant finds | Plants

Ghost orchids that grow in complete darkness, a tobacco plant that traps insects and an “exploding fireworks” flower are among the new species scientists named last year. Species range from the voodoo lily from Cameroon to a rare tooth mushroom discovered near London, UK.

A new tree from the ylang-ylang family is the first tree to be named in 2022 and is named after actor and ecologist Leonardo DiCaprio. He campaigned to revoke the logging concession that was threatening the African tree, which has bright yellow flowers on its trunk.

The featured plants are among 205 new species named in 2021 by scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and their collaborators around the world. They are all vital parts of the planet’s biodiversity and some of them may provide food and medicine.

However, many of them are already extinct in the wild and many are threatened by the destruction of forests and the expansion of palm oil plantations and mining. There are 400,000 named plant species and two out of five are threatened with extinction. Scientists said it was a race against time to identify new plants before they were gone forever.

In total, scientists around the world have named about 2,000 new plant species each year for at least a decade. “It’s almost puzzling that we’re still discovering so much,” said Dr. Martin Cheek, of RBG Kew. “But now is our last chance to find an unknown species, name it and hopefully protect it before it goes extinct globally.”

The new ghost orchid is one of 16 new orchids from the dense and remote forests of Madagascar, and has been named Didymoplexes Star Forest By Johann Hermanns of Kew, it means “star of the forest” because it grows in pitch darkness and has star-like flowers. It has no leaves or chlorophyll for photosynthesis and gets all the nutrients in symbiosis with underground fungi. The flower flows through humus in the forest floor for just one day to attract pollinators, which may be ants.

Uvariopsis dicaprio, A A tree of the ylang-ylang family found in Ebo Forest, Cameroon, named after Leonardo DiCaprio. Photography: Lorna McKinnon/RPGQ

Three of the new orchids are already thought to have become extinct in the wild due to the destruction of their forest homes, including one tree-dwelling species that was likely wiped out by the demand for geranium oil used in aromatherapy. “Unfortunately, many of Madagascar’s unique plants are at risk from deforestation, drought, floods and fires caused by climate change,” Hermanns said. “It really is a race against time.”

The unusual tobacco plant was among seven new species found near a truck stop in Western Australia covered in sticky glands that trap and kill insects, likely as a defensive measure. Professor Mark Chase of RBG Kew said: “Arid parts of Australia, which includes most of the continent, are thought to be roughly arid, but in recent years these poorly studied areas have yielded many new and unusual species.”

The tropics are known as biodiversity hotspots and an amazing new species of primrose found in Borneo has been named Ardisia fiery Because the shower of white flowers is like exploding fireworks. However, it has already been assessed as critically endangered, as few plants are found in two locations and are threatened from oil palm plantations.

“Who knows how many thousands of plant species that will be revealed in the future are likely to have become extinct because of palm oil plantations,” Cheek said. “It’s disgusting.”

Ardisia motorcycles.
Ardisia fiery. Photography: Shuichiro Tagane / RBG Kew

The new pink voodoo lily has a flower that is 30 cm long and was found in a small corner of the vast Ibo forest in Cameroon. The tree with DiCaprio’s name is also found in the Ibo forest. But despite the revocation of logging permits in August 2020 by the President of Cameroon, Ovariopsis Dicaprio It is still endangered because its habitat is still not protected from possible logging in the future.

The new mushroom was first found in the UK’s Windsor Great Park under a sweet chestnut tree in 2008, but has not been named so far as DNA analysis of a group of species had to be completed together. It is one of a group of unusual fungi that form mushrooms with elongated teeth under their covers, rather than gills, and has become rare due to nitrogen pollution from agriculture.

Another new species, the blueberry bush from the coffee family found in Borneo, took longer to be scientifically named. It was first seen by scholars in a painting by prominent botanical artist Marian North, which she painted in 1876 while residing on the banks of the Sarawak River.

A new species was discovered not in the wild, but in the laboratory. Microscopic fungi were found lurking in wild banana seeds from Vietnam preserved at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank in Sussex. banana fusarium, Which has a coral color and a velvety texture, is an “endophyte”, a fungus that lives inside the plant without causing it any visible damage. The scientists said that distinguishing these pathogenic fungi is critical to protecting plant health.

Other new species that have been highlighted include periwinkle from the Andean valleys of Bolivia, which has kiwi-like fruits that are edible when roasted and may also have medicinal properties, and five beautiful primroses from the Democratic Republic of the Congo that are threatened by copper mining.

“A lot of our medicine comes directly from plants, or is inspired by compounds that come out of plants,” Cheek said. “If we make species go extinct before we can even look at the chemicals inside, isn’t that crazy?”

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