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A Facebook photo helped scientists discover a new plant

A Facebook photo helped scientists discover a new plant


No, do not take pictures of the dandelions in your front yard. Those aren't new

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Brazilian plant researcher Paolo Gonella probably wasn't hoping to discover a new plant species when he was scrolling through his Facebook Newsfeed, but when he came across a picture posted by Reginaldo Vasconcelos, that's exactly what happened.

The plant is a previously undiscovered species of Drosera, or sundew, now called Drosera magnifica; it can grow to be up to five feet tall, and is the second-largest carnivorous plant in North and South America, with sticky leaves that can trap insects as large as butterflies. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Vasconcelos first photographed the plant in a jungle on a mountaintop in southeastern Brazil, near where he lives, in 2012 and posted it on his Facebook to share with his friends.

"Internet based image databases have become an important tool for plant enthusiasts and botanists to share their interest and knowledge," writes Gonella in an article published in the scientific journal Phytotaxa. "This remarkable phenomenon has even led to the discovery of new taxa, such as a species of green lacewing," which is literally a little green bug with wings that look like lace.

According to Gonella, the discovery of the new species of sundew is the first instance of a new plant turning up on a social network, but likely won't be the last.