Life
HTI | Aug 16, 2022

Lost Magnolia species rediscovered in Haiti

/ Our Today

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First find by Conservationists since 1925 after original habitat destroyed by deforestation

Licey with Magnolia emarginata.

A conservation team has rediscovered a native magnolia tree in a forest in Haiti for the first time since it was lost to science in 1925.

The tree was considered endangered and featured on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species. Its discovery, which has been reported by The Guardian, has sparked new hope for the potential rewilding of Haiti’s forests.

Magnolia emarginata and pollinator.

Boasting pure white flowers and uniquely shaped leaves, the northern Haiti magnolia (Magnolia emarginata) was found originally in the forest of Morne Colombo, which has since been destroyed by deforestation. As a result of the rapid decline of forest space – only one per cent of the country’s original forest remains – many native plants now only grow in inaccessible mountains or ravines.

Haitian local Maxilion with Eladio Fernández, communications director for the Haiti National Trust and leader of the expedition.

Suspecting that the magnolia could survive in elevated habitats, a team from the Haiti National Trust travelled to Massif du Nord, Haiti’s longest mountain range, in search of the elusive plant. On the third day of the expedition, the team spotted one tree and took the first photos ever captured of the plant.

16 flowering trees in various stages found

The Guardian reports that the team soon discovered 16 flowering trees in various stages of development, along with juvenile plants in the early phases of growth. These discoveries, the conservationists say, suggest that even more of the species could be found in the area.

“Despite the bleak state of the country’s degraded forests, it still harbours species like this that are found nowhere else in the world, giving us the opportunity to save them.”

Eladio Fernández, communications director for the Haiti National Trust

Once they had identified the trees, they collected samples for DNA analysis and plan to return in late autumn to collect seeds. The Haiti National Trust has successfully cultivated four other native magnolia types across the island of Hispaniola, which also includes the Dominican Republic.

Curators Herbarium B (2000+). Digital specimen images at the Herbarium Berolinense. (Photo: Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin)

The Trust hopes to use its experience to help local communities contribute to restoration efforts and eventually start a nursery. Eladio Fernández, communications director for the Haiti National Trust and leader of the expedition, 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 harbours species like this that are found nowhere else in the world, giving us the opportunity to save them.”

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