Newly-discovered flower is so rare, there is only one plant of its species

Scientists find a new species of flower in a remote part of Hawaii.

Newly-discovered flower is so rare, there is only one plant of its species

Cyanea heluensis, a new flower species found in a remote area of Hawaii.

Credit: HAWAII DNR
  • Botanists have discovered a new species of flower on a remote slope in Hawaii.
  • The new plant is called Cyanea heluensis and features white, curved flowers.
  • The plant is so rare, there is only one of its kind found so far.

A flower was found in Hawaii that is one of a kind—in fact, it's the only known example of its species. It's name is Cyanea heluensis, and the only place you can see it in the world is in a remote location in West Maui.

It was discovered above the town of Lahaina by botanists Hank Oppenheimer and Jennifer Higashino "in the deep shade of a healthy ohia forest," as the press release from Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources poetically stated.

The scientists were studying the very steep and rugged slopes of the area when they came upon the flower. The inaccessibility of the spot and the difficulty of traversing the terrain likely contributed to the fact that this plant likely hadn't been found for centuries.

The white flower has similarities to a native plant called the hāhā, but its curved flowers are quite distinct. They get pollinated by birds and eventually produce orange fruit that local fruit-eating birds eat while dispersing the seeds. The botanists have been scouring the area where the rare plant was found, trying to find more such seeds, but currently to no avail.

The plant has been added to the list of 250 species supervised by the University of Hawaii's Plant Extinction Prevention Program (PEPP).

"Since being found, numerous surveys using ropes to access steep cliffs have failed to locate any more individuals, making the conservation of the only known plant critically important," the state pointed out on Facebook, adding "before a goat could eat the plant or another catastrophe caused immediate extinction, Hank Oppenheimer applied a special paste ... to produce new growth on the plant."

This new growth was moved to Maui's Olinda Rare Plant Facility, where it is being protected and nurtured. The site of the find itself has seen safeguards installed, especially against slugs, rats, pigs, and goats.

Botanist climbing up steep slopes in West Maui.

Credit: Hawaii DNR

The steep slopes of the area where the new plant was found.

Credit: Hawaii DNR

Botanist Steve Perlman of PEPP, shared his feelings on the thrill of finding a new species like this:

"So, few people study and know the flora and fauna well enough to recognize when a new species of plant, insect or bird lies in front of them," said Perlman. "Saving the plants that have evolved all over the world is so important. The age of discovery is not over! These jewels of creation represent the wonderful diversity of the planet earth and we will never see their like again."

DLNR is looking for funding to put up a fence that would keep out anyone who might damage numerous sites it is protecting.

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China's "artificial sun" sets new record for fusion power

China has reached a new record for nuclear fusion at 120 million degrees Celsius.

Credit: STR via Getty Images
Technology & Innovation

This article was originally published on our sister site, Freethink.

China wants to build a mini-star on Earth and house it in a reactor. Many teams across the globe have this same bold goal --- which would create unlimited clean energy via nuclear fusion.

But according to Chinese state media, New Atlas reports, the team at the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) has set a new world record: temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds.

Yeah, that's hot. So what? Nuclear fusion reactions require an insane amount of heat and pressure --- a temperature environment similar to the sun, which is approximately 150 million degrees C.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it.

If scientists can essentially build a sun on Earth, they can create endless energy by mimicking how the sun does it. In nuclear fusion, the extreme heat and pressure create a plasma. Then, within that plasma, two or more hydrogen nuclei crash together, merge into a heavier atom, and release a ton of energy in the process.

Nuclear fusion milestones: The team at EAST built a giant metal torus (similar in shape to a giant donut) with a series of magnetic coils. The coils hold hot plasma where the reactions occur. They've reached many milestones along the way.

According to New Atlas, in 2016, the scientists at EAST could heat hydrogen plasma to roughly 50 million degrees C for 102 seconds. Two years later, they reached 100 million degrees for 10 seconds.

The temperatures are impressive, but the short reaction times, and lack of pressure are another obstacle. Fusion is simple for the sun, because stars are massive and gravity provides even pressure all over the surface. The pressure squeezes hydrogen gas in the sun's core so immensely that several nuclei combine to form one atom, releasing energy.

But on Earth, we have to supply all of the pressure to keep the reaction going, and it has to be perfectly even. It's hard to do this for any length of time, and it uses a ton of energy. So the reactions usually fizzle out in minutes or seconds.

Still, the latest record of 120 million degrees and 101 seconds is one more step toward sustaining longer and hotter reactions.

Why does this matter? No one denies that humankind needs a clean, unlimited source of energy.

We all recognize that oil and gas are limited resources. But even wind and solar power --- renewable energies --- are fundamentally limited. They are dependent upon a breezy day or a cloudless sky, which we can't always count on.

Nuclear fusion is clean, safe, and environmentally sustainable --- its fuel is a nearly limitless resource since it is simply hydrogen (which can be easily made from water).

With each new milestone, we are creeping closer and closer to a breakthrough for unlimited, clean energy.

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