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Resurrection plant Chamaegigas intrepidus

Chamaegigas intrepidus is a rare aquatic plant from Namibia, with a remarkable ability to recover after drought and is commonly called the resurrection plant.

Chamaegigas intrepidus was first discovered in 1909 by Kurt Dinter, one of the early botanists active in Namibia. Because of its small stature and gigantic lifestyle, it is aptly named C. intrepidus, which literally translates to 'intrepid dwarf giant'. It occurs exclusively in small, shallow ephemeral pools, no deeper than about 15 cm, on top of large rock plates in the central-west region of Namibia.

At the base of the pools, a thin layer of coarse sand, debris from algae and aquatic invertebrates, animal dung and leaf litter accumulates. The compressed mass of roots (rhizomes), which are about 1 mm in diameter in their dried state, are embedded in this layer.

The plant has to cope not only with drying and refilling of pools, but also daily fluctuations of temperature and pH. During the dry season (up to 11 months of the year), rhizomes can be exposed to temperatures of up to 50 °C and even when rock pools are filled, water temperatures of up to 40 °C have been reported with night temperatures down to 6 °C.

During the good rains in Namibia in the 2005/2006 season, the local Millennium Seed Bank Partnership team succeeded in collecting seed of this remarkable and rare aquatic plant. During most years, the rains are not adequate for this plant to make its appearance, so Kew's conservation team were extremely lucky to find a sufficiently large population at the right moment for seed collection.It was the first time that rain fall in Namibia had met average or above average falls in as many as 30 years, so we may not see this plant species seed again for a while.

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