“The chances of finding this tree were one in a million,” said the scientist, who led an expedition of three people.
The foundation for the protection of the environment and biodiversity Haiti National Trust announced that an expedition found a species of magnolia that had been thought lost to science for 97 years.
No researcher had ever seen a magnolia from northern Haiti (‘Magnolia emarginata’) since scientists first discovered it in 1925, so this tree plant is classified in danger of extinction in the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The forest in which the North Haitian magnolia was originally discovered has disappeared. Throughout the country, deforestation has left very few forest habitats due to illegal logging and other human activities.
Currently, the percentage of forest cover in Haiti is estimated at only 1% of primary forests. Many native plants grow on mountaintops and in hard-to-reach gorges.
“Despite the bleak state of the country’s degraded forests, it still harbors species like this one that are not found anywhere else in the world, giving us the opportunity to save them,” said the leader of the expedition, the Dominican Eladio Fernández, quoted by the Diario Libre.
Fernández, who is also director of communications for the Haiti National Trust, took on the role of researcher, botanist and photographer and at the same time, he led a team of three scientists, who were accompanied by two local guides.
The expedition managed to identify 16 adult plants with flowers and several younger ones, from which they took samples to analyze their DNA. In addition, the team had to work in difficult conditions, due to the distrust of local residents, who accused the researchers of searching for gold, and the inaccessible location of the plants.
“The chances of finding this tree were one in a million”, assured the researcher.
The foundation plans to return to the area at the end of autumn to collect ‘Magnolia emarginata’ seeds with which to start a conservation program for the species and invited its followers to collaborate with the project with donations.
“This rediscovery serves as a beacon of hope for the biodiversity of Haiti,” Fernandez concluded.