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Amateur botanists discover a genuflecting plant in Brazil
Date:9/20/2011

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.: A new plant that buries its seeds, the first in its family, is discovered in the Atlantic forest of Bahia, Brazil, by an international team of scientists.

The new species, appropriately named Spigelia genuflexa, displays a particular and rare characteristic that gives it its name. After fruits are formed, the fruiting branches "bend down," depositing the capsules with seeds on the ground and sometimes burying them in the soft cover of moss, a phenomenon called geocarpy. This ensures that the seeds end up as close to the mother plant as possible, facilitating its propagation the following season. A famous example of geocarpya rare adaptation to growing in harsh or ephemeral environments, is the well-known peanut from the legume family that buries its fruits in the ground.

The discovery of Spigelia genuflexa was published on Sept. 14, in the scientific journal PhytoKeys, in an open-access paper available for free.

Amateur botanist Alex Popovkin knew right away that this was something brand new. He's inventoried, photographed and identified over 800 plant species so far on his property in Bahia, Brazil, one of the areas of the world with the highest biodiversity.

"It's taken me 30 years, from my days as a volunteer at the greenhouses of the Botanic Garden of the University of St. Petersburg, Russia, to realize my dream of living in the tropics and studying its plants up close," said Popovkin.

"It is very easy to think we have found and described most plant species of the world already, but this discovery shows that there are so much left out there without name and recognition," said botanist Lena Struwe of Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.

Struwe, a professor in the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, is no stranger to unusual species descriptions. She's previously described a species in the gentian family from the Andes named after Harry Potter
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Contact: Carl Blesch
cblesch@ur.rutgers.edu
732-932-7084 x616
Rutgers University
Source:Eurekalert

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