Ancient aquatic plant on the rocks
The tiny Isoetes eludens, which lives in temporary rock pools, may be at risk from climate change
22 Dec 2009
Dr Rhian Smith collecting speciments of Isoetes eludens in South Africa (Image: Stephen Hopper, RBG Kew)
To discover a completely new species in a small pool just 2m in diameter and 15cm deep was an unexpected delight. It highlights how much more work is needed to reveal the full diversity of the Cape's world-famous floraProfessor Stephen Hopper, Director, RBG Kew
Isoetes eludens, a species of an ancient group of spore-plants known as quillworts, and so named because it eluded its discoverers for seven years, was found in a mountain-top rock pool in a remote corner of Namaqualand, South Africa by Kew’s Director, Professor Stephen Hopper.
Botanists are concerned that these exposed temporary rock pools – known by the local Nama people as !gau – are vulnerable to climate change which could mean the 5cm high plant’s days are numbered. Urgent collection of spores and long-term storage in seed banks is an important next step to secure the conservation of this intriguing species. Quillworts date from fossils aged more than 150 million years old in an era before the evolution of flowering plants.
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