By Rachel Lippmann, KWMU
St. Louis, MO – The Missouri Botanical Garden has added the six millionth species to its "library of plants."
The newest leaf in the Garden's herbarium is from a large philodendron from Ecuador. In addition to being a landmark specimen for the garden, the leaf is also from a new species.
Botanist Thomas Croat, the Garden's P.A. Schulz Curator of Botany, spotted the leaf on a mountainside in Ecuador. Its collection was an arduous process that involved climbing a cliff, which Croat described to laughter.
"But when I finally got it back down to the road without even tearing any of the leaves, I realized that I had collected something I had never seen before, and it turned out to be a new species," Croat said.
Croat was surprised to find a new plant species in a region of Ecuador that's been thoroughly explored.
A herbarium is essentially a plant library, and garden director Peter Raven said the newest discovery makes the one at the Botanical Gardens the second largest in the Western Hemisphere. "And in turn, they control the names people use for them, they control the ability to go back and find the same one again or say what is the same or compare them from to the other, and that's why size matters," Raven said.