In 1979 villagers from Shantiniketan in West Bengal cut down a palm about to flower because they feared it could be a “ghost palmyra tree.” This was the last Corypha taliera alive in the wild. Years later, a cultivated specimen from an Indian botanic garden flowered and the seeds were collected. Some of the seedlings were sent to the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, where these pictures were taken.
In the 50s a professor at Dhaka University in Bangladesh noticed a strange palm. Recognizing its potential rarity, he convinced university administrators to protect it. It turned out to be C. taliera! Since it was discovered on an undeveloped part of the campus, it was considered by some to be the last known specimen growing in the wild. However, it flowered late last year and is now dead or dying. Hopefully, attempts to grow the seeds it produces will be successful. While there are some other C. taliera alive in cultivation, the more genetic diversity and the more plants there are the more likely this plant will stick around.
Without well funded academic institutions, we wouldn’t even know that species like this were in trouble. And now governments around the world are slashing education and research budgets. Sarkozy gave a particulary ignorant and harsh speech about the performance and funding of French universities and research institutes. Go, sign the petition supporting French research! (And don’t forget to click the confirmation link in your email.)