The Loneliest Plant in the WorldPosted: May 10, 2011
This is actually a touchingly sad little story, from Robert Krulwich at Krulwich Wonders (an NPR Sciencey Blog):
Researchers have wandered the Ngoya forest and other woods of Africa, looking for an E. woodii that could pair with the one in London. They haven’t found a single other specimen. They’re still searching. Unless a female exists somewhere, E. woodii will never mate with one of its own. It can be cloned. It can have the occasional fling with a closely related species. Hybrid cycads are sold at plant stores, but those plants aren’t the real deal. The tree that sits in London can’t produce a true offspring. It sits there, the last in its long line, waiting for a companion that may no longer exist.
“Surely this is the most solitary organism in the world,” writes biologist Richard Fortey, “growing older, alone, and fated to have no successors. Nobody knows how long it will live.”