Scientists have revealed their top 10 plant and fungal species named new to science at Kew in 2022.
The list includes a range of species from a giant water lily that breaks all records in the wetlands of Bolivia to a living cascading plant deemed extinct before it was named, and a “winter daffodil”. turkish discovered in Ukraine with flowers that do not open.
Highlights also include a rare species named after Queen Elizabeth II, a rainforest tree honoring a murdered conservationist, and an endangered plant threatened by a colony of pigeons.
Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG), Kew’s annual list highlights the wonders, complexities and rarities of the natural world.
This year, the choices pay tribute to those who have sacrificed their lives to protect the planet’s biodiversity.
Some 90 plants and 24 fungi have been named this year by RBG Kew and its partners alone, with new species coming from the rainforests of Central Africa, the Atlantic Forest of Brazil and even the caves of Southeast Asia.
Many of these discoveries involve extremely rare species already threatened with extinction, some of which only exist in unique places.
At least one is considered already globally extinct.
Kew scientists are contributing to global efforts to halt and reverse the global biodiversity crisis, with two in five plants estimated to be at risk of extinction.
Dr Martin Cheek, Senior Research Officer in RBG Kew’s Africa team, says: “It’s easy to think we have a perfect understanding of the natural world and all of its plants and fungi, but as these annual lists we show it time and time again, we have only scratched the surface of the discovery.
“Unfortunately, many of the species described this year have already been assessed as vulnerable or critically endangered with extinction, or are even already extinct, underscoring the need to accelerate the rate at which we make new discoveries.
“We can’t end the biodiversity crisis if we don’t know exactly what we’re saving and where.”
Dr Tuula Niskanen, Research Manager in the Fungal and Systematic Diversity team at RBG Kew, says: “It has been estimated that over 2 million fungal species, or over 90% of all fungi, remain to be described.
“Amazingly, this figure does not only represent rare species, but also many common species, including those found in Britain.
“Mushrooms have remained such a mystery to us, compared to plants and many animals, because their cryptic lives take place mostly out of sight and have been difficult to study with traditional techniques.
“It is only in recent decades, with the advent of DNA-based methods, that we have begun to understand the true diversity of this kingdom.”
– Here are the top 10 weird and wonderful species named and discovered this year:
1. The rare Queen’s Hedgehog (Hydnum reginae) named after Queen Elizabeth II – a conspicuous white mushroom measuring up to 15cm across.
2. Rainforest Tree Honoring Murdered Honduran Environmentalist – Carpotroche caceresiae, a tree from the Caribbean rainforests of Nicaragua and Honduras, was named in memory and recognition of the bravery of Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores.
3. World’s largest giant water lily – The newest member of the Victoria genus of water lilies, named after Queen Victoria, is the giant Bolivian water lily (Victoria boliviana) and can reach 3.3 meters in diameter.
4. Garland of nails threatened by pigeon droppings – a leafy grass measuring 30 to 50 cm in height with pinkish-purple flowers, which is considered critically endangered in the wild.
5. Extinct before it was named, Guinea Denise Falls Orchid – Saxicolella denisea, a species found on a set of falls on the Konkouré River of Guinea in West Africa is part of a family of restricted grasses and very adapted to living in aerated white water. It disappeared globally, most likely in 2021.
6. Turkish “Winter Daffodil” with flowers that don’t open – Although only recently named to science, the discovery of Sternbergia mishustinii dates back to 1997 and the nature explorer Ukrainian Ruslan Mishustin from Kherson State University.
7. Bruised Ink Bolete discovered in Israel and Sardinia – Officially named Cyanoboletus mediterraneensis, many parts of the mushroom turn intense dark blue when handled or damaged.
8. Busy Lizzie pays homage to the “defenders of the Ebo forest” – Measuring 10-60cm tall, the plant has two-tone flowers of magenta pink and white. The species, Impatiens banen, is named after the Banen – defenders of the Ebo Forest and Cameroon Wildlife Reserve.
9. Sweet potato’s relative is a new species of morning glory – Ipomoea aequatoriensis is a common weed plant with flowers on the Ecuadorian coast. Knowledge of the sweet potato’s closest relative can lead to the selection of improved strains that benefit mankind.
10. Only three of the trees left in the wild – the last survivors of Brazil’s Mata Atlantica – Eugenia paranapanemensis grows in the province of São Paulo where it reaches heights of up to 27 feet. It is threatened by ranching cattle and the production of corn, soybeans, cotton and cereals.