Two dozen new palms An astounding 24 new species of palm feature on the list. Some are enormous forest canopy trees, such as the 25m tall Cyrtostachys bakeri, discovered by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew palm expert Dr Bill Baker in Papua New Guinea, but most are slender, elegant palms from the rainforest undergrowth. Twenty of the new palms come from Madagascar, which is home to 188 palm species. "After 20 years of research, we're still finding new species in Madagascar," says Dr Baker. "A half of all known Madagascar palms have been discovered by Kew botanists." Less than 10% of Madagascar's original vegetation remains and a further 200,000-300,000 hectares of forest are destroyed every year. As a result, 90% of Madagascar's palms, including all of the 20 new species, are threatened with extinction because of habitat loss and destruction of palms for the numerous useful products that they provide, such as food and construction materials. Some are incredibly rare; for example, fewer than 10 individuals of one of the new species, Dypsis humilis, were found in a single forest patch used heavily by local people for timber. Innovative conservation strategies involving local communities are needed to save these species. This approach has been effectively employed for the conservation of the 'suicide palm', Tahina spectabilis, discovered in Madagascar by a collaborative team led from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 2007.
|Contact: Bronwyn Friedlander|
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew