Dr. Nedovota Mollel looks at a new plant discovered in Arusha. (Courtesy photo)
Dr. Nedovota Mollel looks at a new plant discovered in Arusha. (Courtesy photo)

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Botanists have discovered what could be the world’s newest type of vegetation in the form of a lone, spear-shaped and nocturnal plant growing in Northern Tanzania, Citizen Tanzania reports. 

The New Times, Rwanda’s largest daily newspaper, reported on Sunday, May 21 that the new plant is currently being studied at the National Herbarium which operates inside the Tanzania Plant Health and Pesticides Authority (TPHPA) premises in Arusha.

Dr. Neduvoto Mollel, TPHPA head of national herbarium, said the new plant seems to come alive at night when the leaves bloom under moonlight, but as soon as the sun comes out, the plant goes with its leaves looking slightly weathered.

“It is a very strange plant because its leaves expand and flourish during the night and contract at sunrise,” Mollel explained.

The plant was discovered by American botanist Barry Yinger and his Tanzanian associate Robert Sikawa. The National Herbarium in which the new plant is being kept and observed, located at Ngaramtoni in the outskirts of Arusha city, holds a collection of preserved plant specimens and associated data used for scientific study and identification.

“We have all reasons to believe that this new plant is endemic to Tanzania. It’s never seen anywhere else in the world because those who discovered it are experts, botanists who have traveled around the globe sampling and studying vegetation,” Dr Mollel pointed out.

Until now, the strange plant has neither local nor scientific names. However, scientists in Tanzania have already sent the plant profile, descriptions and properties to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN) with the proposed name from the country. The ICBN is the world’s authority behind the set of rules and recommendations dealing with the formal botanical names that are given to plants.

Tanzania is tentatively naming the plant “Embere” which means “Spear” in Maasai language. This is because it was discovered in Arusha, which happens to be a Maasai land and again where people traditionally use spears.

As it happens, the new shrub is also shaped like a spear.

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