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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's a Lonely World...

My friend Cat recently shared this article:

The Loneliest Plant In The World
"One day in 1895, while walking through the Ngoya Forest in Zululand, southern Africa, a botanist with the oh so suitable name of John Medley Wood caught sight of a tree. It sat on a steep slope at the edge of the woods and looked different from the other trees, with its thick multiple trunks and what seemed like a splay of palm fronds on top. From a distance it looked almost like a palm tree, and Dr. Wood — who made his living collecting rare plants (he directed a botanical garden in Durban) had some of the stems pulled up, removed, and sent one of them to London.

That little tree stem was then put in a box and left in the Palm House at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. It sat there, alone, for the next 98 years.

Named E. woodii, in Dr. Wood's honor, it is a cycad. Cycads are a very old order of tree and it turns out this one, which is still there in London, may be the very last tree of its kind on our planet, the last one to grow up in the wild."

"Two hundred million years ago, cycads were everywhere. Cycad forests reached from Greenland to Antarctica (though the continents were not where they are now). Pterodactyls flew through them. Big dinosaurs munched on them. During the Jurassic period, small, stumpy palm-looking trees — the ones you can see in John Sibbick's painting — made up about 20% of the world's plants."
"Somehow these E. woodii survived the catastrophe that wiped out the dinosaurs, got through five different ice ages, learned to live with bigger, newer trees, conifers, leaf bearers, then a profusion of fruiting and flowering plants, got pushed into smaller, then even smaller spaces until there were merely tens of thousands, then thousands, then hundreds and then, perhaps, just this one."
(Read the rest of the article here!)

Being the last of its kind reminded me of Lonesome George:

"Lonesome George (Spanish: Solitario Jorge) is the last known individual of the Pinta Island tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni), which is one of eight to fifteen extant subspecies of Galápagos tortoise, all of which are native to the Galápagos Islands. He has been labeled the rarest creature in the world, and he is a potent symbol for conservation efforts in the Galápagos and conservation efforts internationally. It is thought that he was named after a character played by American actor George Gobel.

George was first seen on the island of Pinta on 1 December 1971 by Hungarian malacologist József Vágvölgyi. The island's vegetation had been devastated by introduced feral goats, and the indigenous G. n. abingdoni population had been reduced to a single individual. Relocated for his safety to the Charles Darwin Research Station, George was penned with two females of a different subspecies, but although eggs have been produced, none has hatched.

George is estimated to be about 100 years of age, and he is in good health. A prolonged effort to exterminate goats introduced to Pinta is now complete, and the vegetation of the island is starting to return to its former state." (wikipedia)

I think we should house them together so they can be friends...

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