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LONDON (Reuters) – Orchids are not always referred to as hideous, but that’s how a new species of usually vibrant and delicate flower found in the forests of Madagascar was identified by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London.

One of 156 plants and fungal species named by Kew scientists and their collaborators around the world in 2020, Gastrodia agnicellus, has been crowned “the world’s ugliest orchid.”

“The 11 mm flowers of this orchid are small, brown and rather ugly,” Kew said in its list of the top 10 discoveries of the year. The orchid depends on fungi for nutrition and has no leaves or any other photosynthetic tissue.

While evaluated as an endangered species, since they are located in a national park, the plants have some protection.

Six new species of webcap toadstool mushrooms in the United Kingdom and a strange shrub discovered in southern Namibia in 2010 were among the other discoveries officially named this year.

Six new species of webcap toadstool mushrooms in the UK and a strange shrub discovered in southern Namibia in 2010 were among the other discoveries officially named this year.

As a result, it was not only a new plant, but a new genus and family, known as Tiganophyton karasense.

Although about 2,000 plants are named annually as new to science, new families are only released about once a year.

In extremely hot natural salt pans, the shrub has bizarre scaly leaves and grows, hence its name Tiganophyton, derived from the Greek ‘Tigani’ or ‘frying pan’, and ‘Phyton’ or ‘plant’.

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The new natural findings have been welcomed by Martin Cheek, senior research chief at Kew.

“Some could provide vital income to communities while others may have the potential to be developed into a future food or medicine,” he said.

But he warned: “The bleak reality facing us cannot be underplayed. With two in five plants threatened with extinction, it is a race against time to find, identify, name, and conserve plants before they disappear.”

 
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