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The original 20-foot specimen of what recent reports have described as a "mystery plant" was discovered in 1973 by Chicago's Field Museum's retired curator Robin Foster.

According to a Mail Online report, it was first detected in the Amazon rainforest almost 50 years ago, and its new species has finally been verified.

Scientists could not announce it as a new species for a long time as they could not determine what family the plant belonged to.

But now, because of DNA analysis, they have finally given the discovery a name. The mystery plant is now officially called Aenigmanu alvareziae and is described in a new study published in the Taxon journal.

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Science Times - ‘Mystery Plant’ Species Unveiled; New Type of the Discovery in Amazon Rainforests Confirmed 50 Years After First-Ever Unearthing
(Photo: James Martins on Wikimedia Commons)
An Amazon Rainforest Flower


Aenigmanu Alvareziae

The attractive species of the plant is notable for its subtle orange fruits, which are described to have a shape similar to Chinese paper lanterns, and very tiny white flowers, only approximately two millimeters long.

Even though the Aenigmanu alvareziae is new to researchers, the Indigenous Machiguenga people have long been using them.

Foster, now a Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute researcher, said that when he first saw this small tree while he was out on a forest trail that led from the field station, the fruit looked like an orange-colored Chines lantern that caught his attention.

Its fruit, explained the discoverer, is juicy when ripe and has several seeds. The said attractive fruit is edible, and the researchers describe its taste as "sweet and creamy," although it is not possible to become a food source for humans, CNN reported.

Plant's DNA Examined Through Dried Specimen

The mystery plant sat in years in the herbarium of the Field Museum, a library of dried specimens of plants, although it was not forgotten about.

Fortunately, Nancy, a botanist at the Field Museum to whom Foster showed the plant's dried specimen three decades ago, eventually got a grant to study the plant with her colleagues. The research was financially backed by the Filed Museum's Women's Board.

A similar report from The Big World Tale said the team attempted to examine the plant's DNA using the dried specimens, although these initiatives proved ineffective as DNA testing does not work on some dried materials.

Therefore, they sought help from scientist Álvarez-Loayza, who works in the Manu National Park and has spent several years following and monitoring plants there.

The scientist then discovered a fresh plant specimen and sent it to the Pritzker DNA Laboratory of the Field Museum for genetic analysis.

Belonging to the Picramniaceae Family

Scientists were shocked by their discovery, specifically Picramniaceae, the family that the mystery plant belongs to.

Hensold said when his colleague Rick Ree sequenced the plant and told him the specimen must have been contaminated and added he could not believe it.

Looking closer to the tiny flowers' structure, the expert realized it had some resemblances, although, given its overall features, no one would have put it in that particular family.

As specified in this report, Aenigmanu alvareziae is closely related to one more genus in the Picramniaceae family, also known as Nothotalisia, only described a decade ago.

Related information about the plants in Amazon rainforests is shown on Amazon Rainforest Conservancy is shown's YouTube video below:

 

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