Amazonian tree finally gets ID’d as a new species, and its leaves are HUGE

Brazilian scientists have recently described a tree to be quite different from many others because it has the largest known leaf ever. 

Coccoloba gigantifolia is a tree that can grow up to 15 meters ( 49.2 feet ) high and has leaves that are 2.5 meters ( 8.2 feet ) long!

The tree was first discovered in 1982 while surveying the Madeira River Basin in the Brazilian Amazon. More of the trees were discovered during other expeditions but they were not flowering or bearing any fruit.

In 1993, botanists managed to finally collect two large leaves from a tree in the state of Rondônia, which they then framed for public viewing at INPA (National Institute of Amazonian Research). The species became locally famous, but due to the lack of reproductive material, it could not be described as a new species.

In 2005, Rogério Gribel and a colleague, Carlos Alberto Cid Ferreira, collected seeds and dying flowers from a tree in Jamari National Forest. Unfortunately, the material wasn’t enough to describe the tree as a new species. The scientists decided to plant the seeds and wait.

In 2018, 13 years later, the tree bore fruit and gave scientists enough biological material to describe the tree as a new species.

With formal identification in place, researchers say that the species is likely rare and has a high risk of extinction. Individuals of C. gigantifolia have been recorded only from the Madeira River Basin in the Brazilian states of Amazonas and Rondônia. These areas are currently impacted by infrastructure projects such as hydroelectric dams, roads and expanding agriculture.

The authors of the paper have recommended listing the species as endangered on the IUCN Red List.