This is Psoralea cataracta, and it hasn’t been seen since 1804.
In fact, it is only known because of the single specimen found back then at the Tulbagh Waterfall in South Africa’s Western Cape, and in 2008 it was officially declared extinct on the Red Data List of South African Plants.
A type of fountain bush from the pea family that used to grow next to mountain streams, it was thought to have been lost to forestry and agriculture – but the Red Data List will have to be revised.
Brian du Preez, a PhD student in botany at the University of Cape Town, stumbled upon a population of P. cataracta while walking on a narrow track close to a river in the region.
He was pretty sure he knew what he’d found, and international specialists confirmed this.
“This is a very important find as it shows how the Cape is still relatively unexplored in many mountainous areas,” says du Preez’s co-supervisor Charles Stirton.
“Given that many of the Cape flora only come up briefly after fires, fading quickly, and that sometimes these fires are irregular, the chances of being in an area at the right time is slim.”
Mind you, it seems du Preez has form in this regard.
In 2016, he rediscovered two species in the pea family, Polhillia ignota and Aspalathus cordicarpa, last seen in 1928 and the 1950s respectively and presumed extinct.
Originally published by Cosmos as Delicate flower makes a surprise appearance
Curated content from the editorial staff at Cosmos Magazine.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.