Giant suicidal palm tree discovered in Madagascar

This video from Los Angeles in the USA is called Help Support The Arboretum‘s New Madagascar Spiny Forest.

From World Science:

Death by flowers: giant, suicidal palm has botanists stumped

Jan. 16, 2008

World Science staff

A bi­zarre dis­cov­ery has bot­a­nists puz­zled: a new spe­cies of enor­mous palm tree that flow­ers it­self to death.

Al­though it’s not the first type of plant or tree known to do this, it’s mys­ti­fy­ing re­search­ers for sev­er­al rea­sons. One ques­tion is how such huge trees went un­no­ticed be­fore; an­oth­er is how they evolved and got to Mad­a­gas­car, where they grow.

Not closely re­lat­ed to oth­er known palms, es­pe­cially there, the tree grows some six sto­ries tall be­fore sprout­ing hun­dreds of suc­cu­lent flow­ers, re­search­ers said in an an­nounce­ment of the find. These drain its nu­tri­ents, they added, lead­ing it to col­lapse in a “macabre” de­mise.

But the ti­ny flow­ers, which can al­so de­vel­op in­to fruit, at­tract swarms of pol­li­nat­ing in­sects and birds that help en­sure a next genera­t­ion can live.

The self-im­mo­lat­ing plant, giv­en the sci­en­ti­fic name Ta­hi­na spec­ta­bi­lis, is de­scribed in a pa­per pub­lished Jan. 17 in the Bo­tan­i­cal Jour­nal of the Lin­ne­an So­ci­e­ty. The big­gest palm known in Mad­a­gas­car, re­search­ers said, its fan-leaves alone span more than half the width of a ten­nis court.

As the sci­en­tists told it, Xa­vi­er Metz, a French­man who man­ages a cash­ew planta­t­ion in re­mote north­west­ern Mad­a­gas­car, and his family were stroll­ing near­by when they stum­bled across the palm with its mas­sive, py­ram­i­dal bunch of flow­ers at the tip. Their pho­tos soon reached bot­a­nist John Drans­field, hon­or­ary re­search fel­low of Roy­al Bo­tan­ic Gar­dens, Kew, U.K.

“I could hardly be­lieve my eyes,” Drans­field said. It looked “su­per­fi­cially like the ­tal­i­pot palm of Sri Lanka, but that had nev­er been recorded for Mad­a­gas­car. Clearly this was go­ing to be an ex­tremely ex­cit­ing dis­cov­ery.”

He de­ter­mined the im­mense plant was not only a new spe­cies but a new ge­nus, the broad­er cat­e­go­ry that can con­tain one or more spe­cies. The palm does have an “af­fin­ity” with palms of an even wid­er cat­e­go­ry, a “tribe” known as Chu­nio­phoe­ni­ceae, Drans­field added.

This tribe “has an ex­tra­or­di­nary dis­tri­bu­tion,” and it’s hard “to ex­plain how it could ev­er have reached Mad­a­gas­car,” said Drans­field. Oth­er mem­bers of the tribe grow in Ara­bia, Thai­land and Chi­na.

October 2012. Eighty three percent of Madagascar’s palms are threatened with extinction, putting the livelihoods of local people at risk – according to the latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The update brings the total number of species listed on The IUCN Red List to 65,518, of which 20,219 are threatened with extinction: here.

Madagascar’s tortoises are crawling toward extinction, groups say: here.

4 thoughts on “Giant suicidal palm tree discovered in Madagascar

  1. Pingback: New threatened wildlife list | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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  3. Pingback: Versatile Blogger Award, thanks Horty! | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Madagascar’s new nature reserves | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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