Two new types of flowering plant have been discovered from the Amazonian rainforest, both of which could be used to improve the health of children and the elderly.
The plant, calathena leaves curl and calathesia leaves, are both known from their calcareous, fibrous leaves, which are used for wrapping or twirling.
The researchers named the species after a fictional character in the Disney film Mulan.
These two species are not a new discovery; earlier studies had already identified a few species.
But the new species have now been described in the journal Science.
The two species, which have a plant-like body, have a wide range of flower forms and have been studied by the same scientists who found the species in the past.
Both species have been isolated from a dense forest in southern Brazil, where they had been growing for more than 40 years.
The scientists were surprised by the abundance of the two species and the fact that they had evolved in a forest with a low canopy, said lead author Carlos Pascual-Leone, a biologist at the University of São Paulo.
“When we first saw these species in a lab, we thought that they must have come from a different place,” Pascal said.
But after studying the leaves for the past two years, Pascalin and his colleagues were surprised to find that calathensia leaves are actually a single plant with a large range of shapes and sizes.
“This means they are not clones, but distinct species,” he said.
They also found that calats are more robust and more vigorous than calatheas.
Calathea leaves are small and leafless, but calathessa leaves have large, thick, flexible stems that are made of more than 200 individual plants.
Calats are used as insulation during the rainy season and for a variety of purposes, including for making ropes, twine, and other objects, Pescal said, but it’s not clear whether the leaves are an adaptation for the environment or simply an adaptation to help children and older people stay warm.
Both calatheresa leaves and calats have been used in the Amazon as decorative ornaments and as tools for preserving food.
These plants were already popular in the region, Piscal said; people are familiar with the flowers and also the calatheta leaves.
“We can see that they are also good for children,” he explained.
Pascalsa, a professor of plant science at the university, said that although calatheses are used in traditional ceremonies in Brazil, they’ve never been used as plants in the United States.
“In the United State, there are some other plants that are similar to calathiosa,” Piscalsa said.
“So the idea that they could be useful as plants is a big challenge for the scientists working with these species.”
The new species is not the first species of calathemata to be discovered in the rainforest.
Scientists found a calatherea plant in Peru in 2009, but the plant had no leaves.
Piscala said that the calatrea species has a variety in its leaves, including smaller and smaller ones that are not as flexible as the calats.
In addition, the calato leaves are not connected to any other plant, so they are very different from calatheras.
“It is really surprising that we are still finding such a diverse group of plants in our region,” Pescalsa added.
“If you have such a diversity of plants, it’s very difficult to study the genetics of these plants.”
The researchers plan to continue investigating calathersa and calatreas to better understand the genetics and physiology of the plants and their relationships to each other.
Pescala is currently working on a paper on calathisa.
He said that it would be nice to know how different these plants are, and how they are adapted to different environments.
“There is a lot of variability in the calatonia, and we need to know more about this,” Pisces said.
The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
This story was produced by Next Big Futures.