New plant species discovered at Cerro Chirripo Costa Rica:

A new species of plant was recently discovered in a remote part of Costa Rica, in the mountains. Gentiana bicentenaria is the name of the delicate little herb found in the Talamanca mountain range.

A study on the new species was published by researchers Armando Estrada of the National Museum of Costa Rica and Alexander Rojas, professor at the National University. They have been collecting examples of this species native to Costa Rica since 2016.

Their research was conducted as part of a documentation effort funded by the National Museum of Costa Rica. This was created to explore Costa Rica’s unique biodiversity to aid current and future research by national and international scientists. Specimens of Gentiana bicentenaria are kept at the National Herbarium of Costa Rica for research purposes.

A new species

These plants are characterized by their small size, usually just 2cm in diameter, with tightly overlapping spatula-shaped light green leaves. When the plant is in season, it has only one flower with bluish-white petals and yellow stripes inside.

The flower is the tallest part of the small plant when it blooms between December and March. The flower then falls to reveal the fruit between March and July.

This new species of plants thrives in very humid conditions. They are usually found along streams or in areas of very humid moors. The reason why these plants were not discovered before very recently, was not only because of their small size, but also because of their remote habitat.

Where is Gentiana Bicentenaria found?

In Chirripo National Park, on Costa Rica’s highest mountain, Cerro Chirripo, this new plant has been discovered. Cerro Chirripo rises to 3,821 meters and Gentiana bicentenaria is only found above 3,000 meters. Cerro Chirripo is Costa Rica’s highest mountain and also the location of one of the country’s national symbols; the Crestones.

The ecosystem above 3000 meters is known as the paramo region. This is an area above the highest forests but below the permanent snow line. Scientists consider the paramos to be perhaps one of the most rapidly evolving ecosystems on the planet.

The ecosystem where it grows is however fragile and threatened. The habitat consists of grassy moors on the banks of streams and on inundated land covered with a layer of moss. In these selected areas, plants can grow relatively profusely.

Where does the name come from ?

The name Gentiana bicentenaria was coined by researchers because it is small but beautiful, just like Costa Rica, the only place it is found in the world. The discovery of this plant also coincides with the bicentennial anniversary of Costa Rica, and bicentenaria means bicentenary in Spanish. The species is part of the genus Gentiana which forms the remainder of the name.

There are approximately 450 species in the Gentianaceae plant family. Gentiana is the most common genus within this family, most commonly found in temperate regions of North America, Europe, and Asia. The smallest number of species found in the tropics are usually located at high altitudes, which is also the case with Gentiana bicentenaria.

Armando Estrada, of the National Museum, said that the name of the plant is an occasion to celebrate the country in which they live and the 200 years since their independence.

Examples of Gentiana bicentenaria plants were shown to Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado and First Lady Claudia Dobles during a recent visit. They praised the research carried out by scientists from the National University and the National Museum in their discovery of this new species. The president of the republic said it was an honor for Costa Ricans that these unique species were discovered and named after the bicentennial.

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