A new species of monkey flower has been found growing on the banks of a stream in Scotland. But it is no ordinary discovery—the flower is a rare hybrid of two foreign species, and a glimpse into evolution in action.
The past couple weeks, corpse flowers have been blooming at gardens across the country. Amorphophallus titanum, or titan arum, flowers with the odor of a thousand toxic fumes, the height of two men, and draws crowds as large as any circus. The corpse flower may be most famous in the genus, but more than 170 species of Amorphophallus have been indentified, including a new one earlier this year, found in Madagascar's dry rocky soil.
In 2008, a rare and unusual palm was discovered in remote Madagascar. Hailed as the most important new species of its kind, the tree made headline news—not for its notable survival, but for its spectacular demise. If the Tahina spectabilis had an epitaph, it would read "The gigantic palm that flowered itself to death."
While most plants disperse seeds far away, some have evolved a mechanism to keep them close and better ensure their survival. These geocarpic species actually deposit their own fruits in the soil. Last year, a botanist in rural Brazil named a newly discovered species Spigelia genuflexa, after its tendency to bow towards the ground, burying its seeds.