New, exotic African mistletoe discovered just in time for Christmas



Washington, Dec 20: Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew are celebrating some of the weird, wonderful and stunning discoveries they've made this year from the rainforests of Cameroon to the UK's North Pennines.


"Each year, botanists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, working in collaboration with local partners and scientists, continue to explore, document and study the world's plant and fungal diversity, making astonishing new discoveries from microscopic fungi to canopy giants," said Professor Stephen Hopper, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

"This work has never been more relevant and pressing than in the current era of global climate change and unprecedented loss of biodiversity. Without a name, plants and fungi go unrecognised, their uses unexplored, their wonders unknown," he said.

"On average, 2,000 new plant species are discovered each year, and Kew botanists, using our vast collection of over 8 million plant and fungal specimens, contribute to the description of approximately 10 per cent of these new discoveries. Despite more than 250 years of naming living plants, applying each with a unique descriptive scientific name, we are still some decades away from finishing the task of a global inventory of plants, and even more so for fungi," Hopper added.

"Plants are at risk and extinction is a reality. However stories of discovery and rediscovery give us hope that species can cling on and their recovery is a very real possibility. Continuing support for botanical science is essential if plant based solutions to human challenges, such as climate change, are to be realised."

And among what they discovered this year, was the African Mistletoe.

This parasitic, tropical mistletoe was named in 2010, and was first discovered near the summit of Mount Mabu in northern Mozambique, a region which hit the headlines in 2008 when a Kew-led expedition uncovered this lost world bursting with biodiversity.

It was spotted by the expedition's renowned East African butterfly specialist, Colin Congdon. Colin quickly realised this species was different from anything he had seen on the mountains in neighbouring Malawi and Tanzania, and on closer inspection back at Kew it was confirmed a new species.

Tropical mistletoes, from the family Loranthaceae, are a great example of biodiversity and the symbiotic relationship between plants and animals.

Birds play a vital role in both pollinating these mistletoes, and also distributing the seeds. As birds eat the small fleshy white sweet fruits, the seeds are then wiped on a branch to which they adhere. Once germinated the root grows into the living tissue of the tree to obtain the new plant's nutrients. Tropical mistletoes are also popular with butterflies and in particular the blue group Lycaenidae. These strong links between the plants, their host trees, and various birds and butterflies, shows the interconnected nature of forest species, and the need to conserve all elements in order to preserve the environment.


Copyright Asian News International/DailyIndia.com