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Kew Gardens reveals the top plant discoveries of 2018

Two new species of morning glories, previously unknown hedgehog mushrooms, and a tree that likely went extinct before it was ever described are all among the most significant discoveries made by the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in 2018.

Overall, the Kew team described 128 plants and 44 species of fungi this year. The largest plant discovered was an 80-foot tree from Guinea, West Africa, where it is endangered by deforestation. Dr. Martin Cheek is the senior research leader at Kew Gardens and is credited with the discovery of this tree, which was named Talbotiella cheekii in his honor.

Another tree introduced by the experts is known as Vepris bali, which was found in Cameroon in 1951. Based on samples collected at that time, the tree has finally been described by Kew scientists. However, V. bali is believed to be extinct due to land clearance by farmers, and has not been spotted since its discovery in 1951.

In a waterfall in Sierra Leone, a new genus of plant was found and named Lebbiea grandiflora. The plant, which is described as having bizarre pillar-like structures, is already classified as endangered.

A new fungus, Hydnum melitosarx, is one of 22 new species of hedgehog mushrooms found in the woodlands of northern North America and Western Europe. Many of these mushrooms are thought to be edible.

Two species of morning glory were documented in Bolivia, one of which was found in dry bush-land after heavy rainfall with beautiful pink flowers. The second species was found on a steep slope in the Andes Mountains with delicate white flowers.

“It seems unbelievable that we scientists are still discovering species of plants and fungi new to science out in the wild – often in the most unlikely of places,” said Dr. Cheek.

“Many of these new species have potential benefits for humanity, from beautiful pot plants to new medicines or crops, but sadly we are finding that most of these new species are threatened with extinction due to habitat destruction, or are even likely extinct already.”

More information on the 13 biggest discoveries of 2018 by Kew Gardens can be found on their website here.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

Image Credit: Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

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