Most of the recently discovered new species of plants and fungi grow in areas of the planet that few people know about. From the nunataks in Antarctica to the extinct volcanoes of a remote Indonesian island to the unexplored forests of Mozambique. Places so remote that the extinction of these plants is in danger of going unnoticed. That’s why scientists Kew Gardenswith their international partners recently presented a selection the ten most fascinating and constantly declining new species classified in 2023.
AsMadagascar orchid Aeranthes bigibbum whose survival depends on a very rare blue-billed toucan-like bird called the helmet spade (Euryceros prevostii). It lives only in the forests in the northeastern part of the island and is the only species of its genus. The orchid thrives only in a reserve dedicated to this animal and managed by villagers near the Anjanaharibe South Conservation Area. It’s as if the plant and the bird made a silent pact to help each other. By paying the entrance fee to see specimens in the park, you contribute to the protection of the forest in which the plant was found.
“Each year, botanists name an average of around 2,500 new species and an equal number of fungi, but it is thought that 100,000 plants remain to be identified.” – explains Alexandre Antonelli, director of science at Kew Gardens – For fungi the number is much higher and estimates suggest we have covered the surface with only about 150,000 described species out of an estimated undercount of 2.5 million. In these new organisms, unknown today, scientists hope to find new sources of food, medicine and nature-based solutions to address the environmental challenges of our time.”
There are trees that, to withstand the sandy and arid environment of the Kalahari in the Angolan highlands, have evolved to grow almost entirely underground. A safe haven, protected from the climate, where two new species were discovered, the first is called Baphia arenicola and belongs to the dei family bean while the other was classified as Cochlospermum adjanyae. The visible part of these trees is limited to flowers and a few leaves, because the rest wood biomass it remains buried underground throughout the year.
An absolute record for 2023 was recorded for this genre Indigofera which includes several dye plants blue colours: Brian Schrire, an honorary fellow at Kew, has studied it for decades and last year classified 80 new species, 18 of which are from South Africa, far surpassing the feat of any other Kew taxonomist. Among those just described, it is called the first, which is in danger of becoming extinct in a short time Indigofera abbottii.
As for the number of new species, so does the genus Nicotianato which tobacco plant, he’s not kidding: nine were described last year alone, all in Australia. As Nicotiana olens which derives its name from the pleasant fragrance of the flowers: the plant originates from the state of New South Wales and grows in some of the driest environments on the planet on clay or sandstone soils. Until recently, this new species was confused Nicotiana suaveolenscultivated for the first time in Europe in the second half of the eighteenth century in France from seeds collected by the famous British naturalist Sir Joseph Banks during an exploratory voyage to Polynesia with Captain Cook.
Pursuant enemy positions the record is three new fungi from Antarctica, which, despite not having flowering plants, are home to many lichens, organisms formed by a symbiosis between a fungus and algae or cyanobacteria (or both). These lichens grow on nunatas, rocks that rise out of the ice like atolls and represent two percent of the continent. Mycologists discovered near the Spanish Antarctic base Kew three new species of lichen fungi: Arthonia olechiana, Sphaeropezia neuropogonis AND Sphinctrina sessilis.
Botanical discoveries also include found plants such asblue orchid Dendrobium azureum after which there was not even a trace for more than eighty years. It was found last year during an international expedition to the summit of Mount Nok, an extinct volcano on the Indonesian island of Waigeo.
Further studies will be needed to confirm the anomalous nature Crepidorhopalon droseroidesone mysterious plant collected in Mozambique. Just like the carnivores of the genre Drosera it develops leaves covered with fibers that trap insects, but it is not yet clear whether it can then digest them for sustenance.