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11:02 12 Aug 2022

Scientists rediscover Magnolia species lost to science for nearly 100 years in Haiti

After the destruction of the plant's primary habitat due to deforestation, conservationists found a local magnolia for the first time since 1925

As The Guardian reports, a team of conservationists has rediscovered a native magnolia tree in a forest in Haiti for the first time since it was lost to science in 1925.

The northern Haiti magnolia (Magnolia emarginata), with its pure white flowers and uniquely shaped leaves, was initially found in the Morne Colombo forest, which has since been destroyed by logging. The species was considered endangered and was included in the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

How did it happen?

Suspecting that magnolia might survive in elevated habitats, a team from the National Trust of Haiti traveled to the Massif Nord, Haiti's most extended mountain range, searching for the plant. On the third day of the expedition, the team spotted one tree and took the first photographs of the plant.

Soon, scientists discovered 16 flowering trees in various stages of development and young plants in the early stages of growth.

What does it mean?

The findings suggest that even more species may be found in the area, the scientists said. Once they identified the trees, they collected samples for DNA analysis and planned to return in late fall to collect seeds.

The Guardian reports that the Haiti National Trust has successfully cultivated four other native magnolia types across the island of Hispaniola, which also includes the Dominican Republic. They hope to use their experience to help local communities contribute to restoration efforts and eventually start a nursery.

Eladio Fernández, communications director for the Haiti National Trust and expedition leader, shared the optimism that the discovery of this once-lost species has ignited. He said: "Despite the bleak state of the country's degraded forests, it still harbors species like this that are found nowhere else in the world, giving us the opportunity to save them."

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