Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Harry Potter and the Ecuadorian flowers

24.06.2003


A new species of the gentian family gets a Potteresque name



Harry Potter’s influence pervades even the science of plant taxonomy at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Lena Struwe, assistant professor of ecology, evolution and natural resources at Rutgers’ Cook College – and a fan of the fictional young wizard – has shared in the discovery of a rare, new jungle plant that now bears a Potteresque name.

The new species, Macrocarpaea apparata, is described by Struwe and Jason Grant of the Université de Neuchâtel in Switzerland in the June 27 issue of Harvard Papers in Botany [8(1): 61-81, 2003]. The species name, apparata, is drawn from the term "to apparate" – as in apparition – a verb used throughout the book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The author, J.K. Rowling, uses it to refer to a wizard’s ability to disappear and reappear elsewhere instantaneously.


In an effort to conserve the world’s deteriorating biodiversity, plant taxonomists investigate and describe what is known to exist and go out in the field to look for new species. Struwe and Grant have been exploring the shrinking rain forests of South America, most recently the tropical, mountainous Andes region in southern Ecuador.

"Much of the original forest is now gone because trees have gone to lumber and vegetation has been burned to clear pastureland," said Struwe. "In Ecuador alone, a recent estimate is that 83 percent of all plant species are threatened with extinction, a much higher percentage than we previously thought."

The newly discovered plant belongs to the gentian family, whose members are known for their deep blue flowers. They are found on all continents except Antarctica in a wide variety of habitats and have been valued as herbal remedies since the dawn of recorded history. One particular genus, Macrocarpaea, is found predominantly in the mountainous rain forests of America, and it was these that in 2001 the two scientists sought in Ecuador.

"We drove south through misty mountains and lush vegetation, stopping at many places to examine the flora," said Struwe. "Suddenly we saw strange plants growing by the roadside. They had none of the flowers characteristic of gentians, but they did look like a Macrocarpaea – a kind never before seen."

Struwe explained that in order to confirm that it was a gentian, they needed to find a plant with flowers. As darkness approached, the rain-soaked botanists pursued their quarry and, on the verge of giving up, they found it. "At the very last moment, a tall flowering plant suddenly, almost magically appeared in front on us," she said. "It was a small tree, 12-15 feet tall, full with yellowish-white, bell-shaped flowers adapted to nocturnal pollination by bats and moths," added Grant.

The flowers emerged only as darkness fell, almost as an apparition. Thus, Struwe and Grant settled quickly on the species name, apparata.

Struwe had previously identified a new gentian genus in Brazil – Aripuana – and a dozen new gentian species, while Grant has more than 20 new species of Macrocarpaea to his credit. The research described in the June 27 paper was funded by the New York Botanical Garden, Rutgers University and the Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland.

Joseph Blumberg | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.rutgers.edu/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Seeing on the Quick: New Insights into Active Vision in the Brain
15.08.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

nachricht New Approach to Treating Chronic Itch
15.08.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Diving robots find Antarctic winter seas exhale surprising amounts of carbon dioxide

15.08.2018 | Earth Sciences

Early opaque universe linked to galaxy scarcity

15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>