A PhD student in botany in South Africa recently stumbled upon a plant that has not been observed since 1804, writes South African Stellenbosch University this week. The Psoralea cataracta was lost in the South African province of the Western Cape, as a result of deforestation and agriculture.
Only one specimen of the Psoralea cataracta was known so far. This was discovered in 1804. After years of searching for the plant, the Psoralea cataracta in 2008 was designated as 'extinct' on the Red List of South African Plants.
The Psoralea cataracta belongs to the family of butterfly flowers, which is mostly found in South Africa. Butterfly flower species are also growing in Oceania and North and South America.
The student, Brian du Preez, found the plant along a path near the city of Tulbagh in the Western Cape. Du Preez says in a message from the university that he immediately recognized the flower.
Western Cape remained relatively undiscovered
Butterfly flower specialist and professor Charles Stirton examined the specimen found and confirmed that it was indeed the plant that had not been seen for two centuries. According to Stirton, the discovery shows that the mountain areas of the Western Cape have remained relatively undiscovered.
He states in the report from the university that a lot of flora in the Cape can suddenly pop up after natural fires and then disappear quickly afterwards. However, these fires occur irregularly, so there is little chance that you will encounter certain plants as a result.