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Shared picture on Facebook leads to new carnivorous plant

In 2013, amateur botanist, Reginaldo Vasconcelos spotted the meat-eating plant while hiking on a mountaintop in Minas Gerais, southeastern Brazil. The plant was huge and something he didn’t recognize, so he took a picture of it and later posted it to his social media page.

One year later, the photo was seen by Paulo Gonella, a plant researcher at the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Biosciences. He realized, almost immediately the plant looked distinct from any other species he had ever seen.

I was really surprised when I first saw the picture posted on Facebook by Reginaldo Vasconcelos featuring this amazing new species. I was especially surprised, not only because it seemed to be a completely new species, but it was a gigantic plant,” Gonella told IFLScience.

Vasconcelos went back to the mountain with Gonella to investigate the unusually large plant. Gonella, along with co-authors Fernando Rivadavia and Andreas Fleischmann from the Botanical State Collection in Munich, Germany, were able to confirm the species was previously unknown to science.

The discovery of this new species of carnivorous plant was published this month in the journal Phytotaxa. The new species has been given the name, Drosera magnifica (“magnificent sundew”). The new plant is regarded as the largest New World sundew and one of the three largest Drosera species, according to the study.

Drosera graomogolensis is a stunningly beautiful South American sundew from Iticambria  Brazil. Note...

Drosera graomogolensis is a stunningly beautiful South American sundew from Iticambria, Brazil. Note the quarter used for size comparison.
Sundew Grow Guides

Drosera, or sundews are the largest genera of carnivorous plants, currently having around 250 species. Members of this family lure, capture and digest insects using stalked mucilaginous glands covering their leaf surfaces. These plants have evolved this means of getting food because of the poor mineral composition of the soil where they are found. They are found on every continent except Antarctica.

Drosera magnifica is very big, growing up to five feet in height, and has a long sticky tangle of Medusa-like carnivorous leaves that can grow up to 24cm (9.44 inches) in length and ensnare insects the size of a dragonfly. The sticky tangle of leaves secretes a sweet-smelling mucilage that attracts the prey to its death, either through exhaustion or by suffocation.

The scientists were surprised that the plant had not been discovered before now, because where it was found is easily accessible. They also note that the finding of the critically endangered species is proof of the great level of biodiversity to be found in Brazil. “It makes you think: what is still out there, expecting to be discovered?” Gonella says.

Sundews are a type of carnivorous plant that produce a very sticky nectar throughout their leaves. S...

Sundews are a type of carnivorous plant that produce a very sticky nectar throughout their leaves. Sometimes the nectar shimmers and glistens like dewdrops in the morning sunlight.

The scientists also gave credit to social media in aiding in the discovery of the new sundew species, saying, “Internet-based image databases have become an important tool for plant enthusiasts and botanists to share their interest and knowledge of species diversity and taxonomy.”

It is also pointed out that this is “the first plant species to be recorded as being discovered through photographs on a social media network,” say the researchers. While this may be the first plant to be discovered, in 2012, a new species of green lacewing (Insecta: Neuroptera: Chrysopidae) was also discovered with the aid of a photo published on social media.

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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