Testing by Cambridge lab confirms new tulip found in Kyrgyzstan

  • In Science
  • 2022-11-14 06:01:55Z
  • By BBC

Plant hunters have discovered a new and unusual species of tulip during an expedition to Kyrgyzstan.

DNA testing at a Cambridge University laboratory has established it was "something completely different".

Tulipa toktogulica was found by scientists from the university's botanic garden, Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and local teams.

Cambridge postgraduate student Brett Wilson was on the expedition and said the discovery was "super exciting".

Mr Wilson, 28, a botanist and conservationist, said initially the wild tulip, which has a bright yellow flower with red streaked outer petals, "looked similar to other species".

Once they dug it up, "Georgy Lazkov, from the National Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic, and I thought we might be looking at something out of the ordinary".

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Mr Wilson, who has been working on tulip conservation for five years, said: "It turned out to be something completely different - we had found what was likely to be a new species, but we wanted to be sure before we set to work formally describing it."

DNA testing at Cambridge University's Department of Plant Science provided the confirmation they needed.

The plant, which ranges in height from 10cm to 19cm (3.9in to 7.4in), was discovered in the mountainous Toktogul region of the former Soviet Union republic in central Asia, and is named after it.

The group was led by Cambridge University Botanic Garden's curator Sam Brockington, David Gill, from Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and Central Asian tulip experts, including from the National Academy of Sciences of the Kyrgyz Republic.

It was part of a project seeking to understand how tulips evolved and how best to conserve them in their natural habitats.

Tulipa toktogulica has been given conservation status and attempts will now be made to propagate it from seed at the Botanic Garden, which could take several years.

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