1,730 new plant species discovered: report

Scientists say new plant species may hold the genetic code or the key to more resilient food crops from pests, pathogens and climate change in the future


Seven species of the South African plant best known for red bush or rooibos tea were also discovered. Representational photo: AFP
Seven species of the South African plant best known for red bush or rooibos tea were also discovered. Representational photo: AFP

London: Over 1,700 new species of plants have been discovered in the past year, with many having potential as food crops, medicines or sources of timber, according to a new report.

However, some of the newly-discovered plants are already at the risk of extinction, said the scientists at The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in the UK. Their report found that 1,730 plants were recorded as being new to science in 2016, which include 11 new species from Brazil of the Manihot shrub known for its starchy root, cassava.

ALSO READ: NASA awards $100,000 for 3D-printed space habitat challenge

Seven species of the South African plant best known for red bush or rooibos tea were also discovered, of which six are already threatened with extinction, BBC News reported.

Other discoveries include new relatives of aloe vera, widely used in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries. The new discoveries hold “huge promise” for the future, said professor Kathy Willis, director of science at the Royal Botanic Gardens.

“It is really important to find these new species because they may well hold the genetic code — or the key — to more resilient food crops from pests and pathogens and climate change into the future,” Willis said.

The report also revealed that a growing number of plants have had their genomes sequenced to find out more about their biology. The tally now stands at more than 200, including food and drink favourites such as pineapples, strawberries, coffee, wine, chocolate and beer.

More From Livemint