Pinanga Subterranea extremely rare species
Randi & W.J.Baker
Pinanga Subterranea, A rare palm species has just been discovered in Kalimantan. This species is the only member of the palm family (Arecaceae) known to flower and fruit almost entirely underground.
Because this rare palm species has such unusual characteristics, scientists named the species Pinanga subterranea. The word subterranea comes from Latin which means underground.
The uniqueness of the Pinanga subterranean
Most flowering plants (angiosperms) have evolved to develop their flowers and fruit above the ground, which helps facilitate pollination and seed dispersal. But there are a small percentage of plants that have evolved to flower and fruit underground—processes known as geoflory and geocarpy respectively.
This geoflory and geocarpy phenomenon has been observed in at least 171 species in 89 genera and 33 plant families. Beans, for example, flower above ground, but their fruit develops underground.
However, fruiting and flowering exclusively underground is a very rare phenomenon. To the researchers’ knowledge, it has only ever been observed in the small orchid genus Rhizanthella.
This unusual behavior has puzzled scientists because it appears to hinder the plant’s ability to successfully pollinate and disperse seeds, and has never been observed before in the palm family. With the description of P. subterranea as new to science, the researchers hope it may interest other researchers who may help unravel some of the mysteries surrounding this unusual species.