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Rare Leaves-less Plant Discovered in Japan Island

A biologist and his photographer friend discovered a new species of plant while walking in isolated Yakushima island in souther Japan. Resembling a thistle with a sprinkling of blueberries atop its thorny stem, the new variety of plant is related to the triuridaceae family.

Kenji Suetsugu, biologist from Kobe University and Hiroaki Yamashita, a photographer who lives on Yakushima island, found the plant during their daily early morning walk around the island, which was declared a natural UNESCO World Heritage site for its many rare species of flora due to its subtropical and subalpine climate.

The discovery was made in last October by Suetsugu who realised that the plant, named Yakushimaso after the island, in deep purple in color with a number of protrusions. Without leaves, the plant has flowering carpels and stamens, or female and male reproductive organs, atop its 3-centimeter-tall stem.

As a non-photosynthetic plant, it derives its nutrients from bacteria existing in conditions similar to a virgin forest. Suetsugu says the forests need to be preserved for the potential for more discoveries on the island that has evergreen broad-leaved forests in lowland areas and home to various kinds of bacteria, which decompose fallen leaves and dead branches.

Yakushima is an island with mountains with the highest peak reaching 1,935 meters and providing habitat for a variety of plants and animals.

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