Citizen Scientists Discover New Plant Species In The Cape Floral Kingdom

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In the Western Cape Province of South Africa, two new species of blue-flowered legumes were discovered. In the press release, the region the flower was discovered in is said to be a part rich in global flora, called the Cape Floral Kingdom.

Groups of people walk through these regions in search for rare and endangered plants. Outramps, a group for senior walkers found the rare species. The group is a part of a Citizen science group called Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (C.R.E.W.) which is run by the South African Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). The group led by Dianne Turner is the most active in South Africa as well as helps maintain and conserve the country’s threatened plants.

On their walk, they discovered two blue-flowered legumes and sent it to Abubakar Bello, a Nigerian student doing a Ph.D. on the legume tribe Psoraleeae at the University of Cape Town, and one of his supervisors, Prof. Charles Stirton. They thought the flowers were new to science. The professor compared it with other species and found that they were new members of the legume genus Psoralea.

Outrampers have been very vigilant and efficient in handling the situation. Hence, the species were named after the persons in the group who discovered the plants. The first plant was named after the group leader, Dianne, and called Psoralea diturnerae. The species is known only in a few areas in the Outeniqua mountains .The second is named after an excellent photographer in the group, Nicky van Berkel, and is called P. vanberkelae. This grows all over in a 20-km radius along the Robberg Coastal Corridor. This area is protected by a conservationist Chris von Christierson in his private Fynbos Private Nature Reserve.

The discovery of P. vanberkelae has led to an investigation in the coastal strip between Robberg and Harkerville conducted by the University of Capetown botanists. They aim to get it declared a protected environment by finding many other species in the area.

The study was published in the open access journal PhytoKeys.

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