CSU scholars discover new plant species

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COLUMBUS, Ga. – Columbus State University researchers discovered a flower from a new tree species, Myrcia, on a trip to Ecuador over spring break.   CSU graduate student Samantha Worthy is part of a team that discovered the new species in the Amazon.

“We were on a boat and Alvaro, who is an expert Botanist, spotted a species in flower with his binoculars that they had not ever seen in flower before,” Worthy said.

Alvaro Perez, who spotted the new species, is a professor in Ecuador.  He is working with CSU on a project to document plants of the Yasuni region in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

“The flowers are the most important part feature in order to describe the new species,” Perez said.

He says the most interesting feature of this plant is its leaves.

“The other species that are related to this one, they have small leaves and this species is in this genre is the one that presents the biggest leaves,” Perez explained.

Kevin Burgess with CSU’s Biology Department says the Yasuni region has been labeled the most biologically diverse place on the planet.

“In this region, which is under threat from local development and it’s basically a race against time trying to document these plants,” Burgess said.

Worthy says the new species they found isn’t just a small plant; it’s a huge tree species.

“Thinking that there is new plant species out there that no one has ever seen in flower was pretty astonishing,” Worthy said.

Worthy took DNA samples from the leaves to learn more about the species.   The results will tell researchers things like how old the species is.

A group of 12 researchers is going on a Yasuni River Expedition in July.  Burgess says they expect to find a lot of new species on that trip.  They are raising money for that trip.  Click here if you are interested in learning more about the trip and donating.

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