MFIRST QUARTER 2004  

Shimba Support Group Newsletter  

 

 Coastweek   Kenya


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A RARE PLANT 'FIND' IN
SHIMBA HILLS RESERVE

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Coastweek - - Flower of the 'afrothismia baerae' plant.

NEW 'AFROTHISMIA BAERAE' IS AN
ACLOROPHYLLOUS MYCOTROPHIC

Coastweek - - Shimba Hills Support Group have confirmed that one of their trustees, Sabine Baer of Mombasa, has found a rare plant.

Describing the find which has now been named 'afrothismia baerae'  Sabine explained:

"One day in September 2002 I found this interesting little plant right in the middle of Longomagandi.  


"I was studying a civet latrine with a lot of germinated seeds, trying to figure out what that civet had been eating.

"Then, next to the seedlings in the latrine, there was this tiny plant, consisting only of flowers, no leaves, no chlorophyll.

"Looked interesting; I figured out it must be a parasite, took photographs and a few plantlets as samples.

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Coastweek - - 'afrothismia baerae' in flower and a section.

I sent the photos and some drawings to Quentin Luke, an associate of the National Herbarium in Nairobi, and he in turn contacted the Herbarium at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew (UK), and there it was identified as belonging to the unusual family of Burmanniaceae.

The expert working on this group of plants is Martin Cheek, and he supplied the following information."

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Coastweek - - Root system of 'afrothismia baerae'.

To date four species of Afrothismia have been reported in Africa, and two of these are in East Africa.

It is a strange plant with an integral fungus in its root system, these two parts forming a unique symbiotic/ parasitic relationship.

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Coastweek - - Woodland glade with 'afrothismia baerae'.

In other words, whereas most plants draw in soil nutrients through their root-hairs, in Afrothismia carbon and nourishment is supplied by the fungi.

In scientific terms it is an 'aclorophyllous mycotrophic' plant.

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