Every year, thousands of new species of plants and fungi are discovered, proving again and again just how much we still don’t know about our world. And each year, Britain’s Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew highlights 10 key discoveries.
Originally thought to be Hydnum albidum, found mostly in North America, recent analysis shows this mushroom is a new species Hydnum reginae, found in Britain. It’s named after Queen Elizabeth II, while the common name “hedgehog” refers to the spines it has in place of gills.
This tree found in Nicaragua and Honduras was named in honor of Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores, an environmental activist and winner of the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize. In 2016, Berta Cáceres was assassinated for opposing the Agua Zarcas hydroelectric dam in Honduras.
Named after Queen Victoria, Victoria boliviana is found in the Bolivian Amazon, and is already categorized as vulnerable to extinction. The largest known species of its genus, the waterlily’s leaves can stretch more than 10 feet across.
Fewer than 50 examples of the Gomphostemma phetchaburiense exist in the world, all located in a single cave. Other plants of its genus have been used to treat health issues ranging from tuberculosis to insect bites.
Denise Molmou, National Herbarium of Guinea
Saxicolella denisea was declared extinct before it was even named, after a newly constructed dam destroyed the sole waterfall where the species lived. It was named in honor of botanist Denise Molmou, who discovered the species in 2018.
Cyanoboletus mediterraneensis is known as the bruising ink bolete, due to the dark blue that emerges when it’s damaged. RGB Kew says its habitat should be protected, as the Mediterranean area where it grows is especially susceptible to disruptions from climate change.
Found only in Ebo Forest in Cameroon, Impatiens banen is named after the Banen people who live in the region. The Banen led protests against deforestation in Ebo Forest, helping to protect its understudied but vast biodiversity.
The discovery of Ipomoea aequatoriensis solved a longstanding botanical mystery — the origin of the sweet potato. This flowering plant is believed to be the sweet potato’s closest ancestor, and further study could help improve the breeding of sweet potatoes for food.