A species of magnolia lost to science for 97 years rediscovered in Haiti | The threatened species
A conservation team has rediscovered a native magnolia in a forest in Haiti for the first time since it was lost to science in 1925.
Boasting pure white flowers and uniquely shaped leaves, the Northern Haiti magnolia (Magnolia emarginata) was originally found in Morne Colombo Forest, which has since been destroyed by deforestation. It was considered endangered and was listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Red List of Threatened Species, and its discovery sparked new hope for the rewilding potential of Haiti’s forests.
Due to the rapid decline of forest area – only 1% of the country’s original forest remains – many native plants now only grow in inaccessible mountains or ravines. Suspecting that the magnolia could survive in high habitats, a team from the Haiti National Trust traveled to the Massif du Nord, Haiti’s longest mountain range, in search of this elusive plant.
On the third day of the expedition, the team spotted a tree and took the first photos ever taken of the plant. They quickly discovered 16 flowering trees in various stages of development, as well as juvenile plants in the early stages of growth.
These findings, they say, suggest that even more species could be found in the region. Once they identified the trees, they collected samples for DNA analysis and plan to return in late fall to collect seeds.
The Haiti National Trust has successfully grown four other types of native magnolia on the island of Hispaniola, which also includes the Dominican Republic. They hope to use their experience to help local communities help with restoration efforts and possibly start a tree nursery.
Eladio Fernández, director of communications for the Haiti National Trust and leader of the expedition, shared the optimism over the discovery of this once-lost species. He said: “Despite the deplorable state of the country’s degraded forests, it is still home to species like this found nowhere else in the world, giving us the opportunity to save them.”