A species of small holly tree last seen nearly two centuries ago has been rediscovered in Brazil.
A species of small holly tree last seen nearly two centuries ago has been rediscovered in Brazil and scientists say it is an “incredible find”.
The tree, ‘Ilex sapiiformis’ also known as the Pernambuco holly, was feared to have been extinct. But it was recently found in the urban city of Igarassu, in Pernambuco state, by an expedition that spent six days exploring the region in the hope of locating the species.
“The Pernambuco Holly is one of our top 25 most wanted lost species” Re:wild, the conservation group who discovered the lost tree, wrote on Instagram.
“It is the 9th of our most wanted lost species to be rediscovered since our Search for Lost Species launched in 2017.”
This list is put together from the more than 2,200 missing species across 160 countries and was compiled by Re:wild and experts from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) . It includes species that have been lost to science for at least 10 years – but many have been thought extinct for much longer.
So far, the global quest to rediscover them has found at least eight of the top 25 most wanted animals and plants.
An urban landscape that was once dense tropical rainforest
The team was able to identify four different Pernambuco Holly trees by spotting its tiny white flowers.
Even though Igarassu, where the tree was found, has been urbanized over the decades, it was once a dense tropical forest.
“It seemed that the world had stopped turning its gears,” project team member Juliana Alencar said in a statement.
“Nature surprises us. Finding a species that hasn’t been heard of in nearly two centuries doesn’t happen every day. It was an incredible moment.”
Another member of the expedition said it was “like finding a long-lost and long-awaited relative that you only know by old portraits.”
Expedition leader Gustavo Martinelli said the group now hoped to launch a breeding programme for the species.
“The search for more Pernambuco Holly trees isn’t over yet! The team is hoping to organize additional searches with other local partners to find more individuals of the species,” according to Re:wild.
“The goal is to collaborate with partners to better protect the forests where the Pernambuco Holly was found and establish a captive breeding program for the tree.”