New Mistletoe Species Discovered: Yet Another Excuse to Celebrate This Holiday Season

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Among the various natural disasters and man-made catastrophes that unfolded during 2010, it’s nice to take a moment to consider the happier crumbs of environmental news that came out of the year. The UN’s International Year of Biodiversity yielded the discovery and naming of hundreds of new species, many of which can be credited to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Each year, some 2000 new plant and fungi species are discovered, and Kew is credited with about 10% of them.

Chief among this year’s finds — or, at least, the most seasonally relevant of this year’s finds — is a new species of tropical, wild mistletoe from Mozambique, Helixanthera schizocalyx. The species, named this year, was discovered a few years back during a Kew expedition to Mount Mabu on the north of the nation. It was one of several new species that Kew stumbled upon during a 2008 trip to a remote enclave the group now refers to as the ‘lost forest.’ Parasitic in nature, the plant is considered endangered both because of its limited range and because of the threat of its habitat as Mozambique, after years of war, expands its agricultural and forestry sectors.

Also among Kew’s trove of discoveries this year are a giant canopy tree in Cameroon that measures nearly 135 feet tall, a new orchid from Vietnam, a wild aubergine from East Africa, and two long-lost British fungi that were thought to be extinct, the bird’s-eye primrose smut and the moon carrot rust.