It was the year 1992. In a hidden corner of the japanese city of kobe, also known as the ‘door of the spirits’, the discovery of a strange plant caught the attention of the Japanese biologists Nakanishi and Kobayashi. It was translated from a tiny vegetable with whitish skin and a rough appearance that, despite its small size, was noticeable on the wooded ground due to the curious shine that I discovered. The scientists they picked up this specimen with wonder and took it to a laboratory for study.

It turned out to be a specimen of the genus ‘Thismia’some plants known as ‘fairy lanterns’ for their unusual appearance and for his peculiar behavior. This class of vegetables does not have any type of green leaf. They also do not photosynthesize. They feed by capturing nutrients from other organisms around them. So far, about ninety different species have been found within this genus, but according to the scientists, none like the one found in the Japanese forest. The discovery of this unique specimen, baptized as ‘Thismia kobensisfue’, activated the search for more ‘fairy lanterns’ of this type.

The scientists They tried to find more specimens like the one in Kobe for many years. Between 1992 and 1998, a scientific campaign was organized to search the ground inch by inch to try to locate more plants like this. Hopes were completely dashed in 1999, when the construction of an industrial complex in the area completely devastated the area where this intriguing plant had been discovered and, in doing so, also destroyed the chances of finding more specimens of this plant.

In 2010, almost 20 years after the first discovery of this extraordinary specimen, the species was thought to be possibly extinct. The history of this enigmatic flower it seemed to have ended there. But as in any good story, an unexpected twist in the script has brought the protagonist of this story back into the spotlight.

(Re)discovered 30 years later

as advertised Japanese biologist Kenji Suetsugu In an article published this Monday in the specialized scientific journal ‘Phytotaxa’, Another specimen of this species has been found. ‘fairy lantern’ in the Japanese city of Sanda, more than 30 kilometers away from the place where the first flower was discovered. 30 years have passed since the discovery of the first specimen of ‘Thismia kobensisfue’ and, at this point, It seemed almost impossible to find a plant like this alive again. Scientists, in fact, are already talking about the ‘rediscovery’ of this species.

Related news

The team of scientists that found this flower has also carried out a detailed analysis to understand its evolutionary history. The study suggests that this Asian species of ‘fairy lantern’ is northernmost known to date. The morphological study of this plant also suggests that its closest relative is ‘Thismia americana’: a species discovered more than a century ago in the United States, demonstrated for a few years in a prairie near Chicago, and now, like its Asian counterpart, considered extinct.

The story of ‘fairy lanterns’ continues to baffle experts. Above all because, according to the botanists in charge of this last study, the presence of these plants follows a «strange pattern of distribution». So far ‘Thismia’ specimens of different species have been found in Japan, North America, Australia and New Zealand. For now, it seems that not all ‘fairy lanterns’ are related, so it is suspected that they may have evolved independently.