Botanists found flower plants extinct for 200 years

Brian du Preez stumbles across a cluster of legumes with unique purple flowers on an expedition to the Western Cape.

Called Psoralea cataracta , this plant has fragile petals and slender thread-like stalks. The P. cataracta tree has been absent since 1804. Where Preez discovered the cluster is a trail near the river along the village of Tulbagh.

Picture 1 of Botanists found flower plants extinct for 200 years
Psoralea cataracta.(Photo: Brian du Preez).

Professor Charles Stirton, former director of the Wales Botanic Gardens, confirmed the existence of the long-lost plant when viewing the specimen."This is an important finding that shows that Western Cape still has many undiscovered mountainous areas , " said Professor Stirton.

It was introduced to England in 1699 and has become one of the most popular plants here thanks to its vibrant colors like butterfly wings and wonderful aroma. In South Africa, P. cataracta was one of the earliest everlasting species due to reforestation and agriculture in the Western Cape in the 1800s. The tree grows only near mountain streams in the region and is known by a sample. taken from Tulbagh waterfall in the early 19th century. In 2008, after unsuccessful search efforts, P. cataracta was declared extinct in the South African Botanical Red Book.

Preez immediately recognized P. cataracta because he was involved in searching for this tree around the waterfall when volunteering for the Organization for the Protection of Rare and Endangered Wild Flowers (CREW)."As soon as I saw the flower stalks, I knew it was P. cataracta," Preez said.

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