A newly-discovered tropical tree from the Ebo Forest in Cameroon has been named by scientists at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, after the famous Hollywood actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio, to honor his Twitter campaigning to save the forest in which this tree was discovered. Uvariopsis dicaprio – the first plant species to be officially named in 2022 – belongs to the ylang-ylang family, is 13 feet (four meters) tall, and has large yellow-green flowers.
The Ebo forest is one of the largest and relatively untouched rainforests from Central Africa, and is famous for its incredible biodiversity. It is home to the Banen people (aboriginal people from Central Cameroon), and to a large variety of flora and fauna, including endangered species of forest elephants, chimpanzees, and gorillas.
Scientists and environmental activists all over the world were horrified when hearing of plans to allow large areas of the Ebo forest to be opened up for logging, and wrote a letter to the government documenting the vast number of animal and plant species that faced extinction if such plans were implemented.
This issue was picked up by Leonardo DiCaprio, who strongly defended on his Twitter and Instagram accounts this magnificent forest. “Cameroon’s Ebo Forest, and all of the incredible animals that live there, are in trouble,” he wrote in a Twitter post on August 6, 2020. “This includes forest elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees and so many others. Let’s help #SaveEboForest.”
Fortunately, the president of Cameroon cancelled the logging concession in August 2020, raising hopes that the wildlife found in the Ebo forest, including the tree named after DiCaprio, can avoid extinction and continue to thrive.
“Had the logging concession gone ahead, we would have likely lost this species to timber extraction and slash-and-burn agriculture that usually follows logging concessions,” said Dr. Martin Cheek, a senior researcher at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.
“We very much appreciated the support Leo gave us in campaigning to protect Ebo last year so it seemed fitting to honor him in this way, naming a species unique only to this forest, after him,” he concluded.