Fairy Lanterns (genus Thismia) are an extraordinarily obscure group of plants. They are usually very small and inconspicuous and can easily be overlooked on the forest floor. That’s why scientists are begining to gather information on their life strategies and evolution only recently. An intriguing hallmark of the whole group is absence of green leaves and green (photosynthetic) organs in general. They do not need them, because the nutrition is provided by symbiotic fungi that are further connected to green plants, mainly trees. Fairy Lanterns are therefore dependent on many different organisms and thus very sensitive to any disturbance of this fragile network. That is why Fairy Lanterns grow almost exclusively in pristine primary forests. And because forests of Pa’Umor are really natural, these amazing plants are very diverse in them. As a proof, a research article describing four new species from the Kelabit Highlands have been recently published (see http://rdcu.be/JfiH). They were named after the most prominent characteristics: acuminata (being pointed on top), laevis (being smooth inside the flower), nigra (black) and viridistriata (possessing green stripes). The first two are quite rare, but the latter two can be found quite easily. Can you do it, too?
Green-striped Fairy Lantern
Scientific journal Mycological Progress recently published descriptions of two fungal species new to science that had been discovered in the forests of Pa’Umor (see the paper at http://rdcu.be/yiSK). These very tiny mushrooms (only around 0.5 mm!) were named Octospora kelabitiana and Octosporopsis erinacea. The former name was given in honour of the Kelabit people and the Kelabit Highlands – the only region on Earth where it has been found. The latter name means erinaceous (hedgehog-like) and refers to the hairs resembling hedgehog’s prickles. Both of the fungi inhabit mainly untouched forests and both have a peculiar life style. They are parasites of small moss-related plants called liverworts or hepatics that grow mostly on boulders or fallen trees in or near forest rivers. These species are the very first representatives of this group of fungi discovered in Borneo, but many other similar species occur (not only) in Pa’Umor forests and wait for being discovered. Can you find them in the huge and yet so fragile jungle?
Forests of Pa’Umor hide many treasures – treasures that nobody has ever seen and that possibly cannot be seen elsewhere in the world. This is a finding of a recent Czech botanical-mycological expedition to the Kelabit Highlands. In the course of a few days, nine new species of plants and fungi were discovered that bear witness to extraordinary values of not only Pa’Umor forests, but tropical rainforests in general. In this post, we present very first publicly available pictures of some of these extravagant organisms. Details about their life, roles in the forest ecosystem or how they can help us understand the forests’ values will be presented in the following posts.
Pa’Umor Fairy Lantern
Green-striped Fairy Lantern
The Smallest Fairy Lantern
Horned Fairy Lantern