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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Emerging Science Note/Wizard Tree

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Cynthia Graber reports on a new plant whose name was inspired by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.


CURWOOD: Coming up, a cheap fix to make dirty water fit to drink. First, this note on emerging science from Cynthia Graber.


GRABER: J.K. Rowling’s best selling Harry Potter books have won the affection of millions around the world. Now, the author’s influence is extending into the realm of science. Researchers at Rutgers University have taken a term from Harry Potter to help name a newly discovered plant. Two researchers from Rutgers traveled to southern Ecuador searching for unknown plants. Specifically the scientists were looking for gentians – a kind of flowering plant that grows on all continents and is used in herbal remedies.

The two researchers drove through the mountains, carefully examining the lush vegetation. Suddenly, they saw a patch of strange plants that resembled a particular genus of gentians called Macrocarpaea, but there were no flowers and they needed to find a blooming plant to confirm the discovery.

Then, just before darkness fell, they saw a flowering gentian. It stood as tall as a small tree, about twelve to fifteen feet high. And it had yellowish-white, bell-shaped flowers, perfect for night-time pollination by bats and moths. In Harry Potter, when wizards magically come and go, Rowling says they “apparate.”

And since the scientists thought the plant had suddenly “apparated” in front of them out of nowhere, they named it “Macrocarpaea apparata.”

That’s this week’s note on emerging science. I’m Cynthia Graber.

CURWOOD: And you’re listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Parlour “The Live Beginning” Octopus Off-Broadway Temporary Residence (2002)]



Photos of Macrocarpaea apparata


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