Wageningen botanist Carel Jongkind keeps coming up with new plant species in West Africa.
On the average, Jongkind discovers three new species a year. Among these is sometimes one which also appeals to non-botanists, such as a new cola tree species unveiled five years ago, and now, this unknown jasmine.
Jongkind found the jasmine two years ago in Africa. 'It struck me then that it could be new. Back in the Netherlands, I went through herbariums and publications to find out if this species has been discovered and described earlier. If the find cannot be traced, the finder can give it a scientific name. There are now eight known collections of the new species from the same location. As far back as in 1926, material from this jasmine had been collected, but it had not been recognized as a new species before. Then you can start to describe and illustrate this species. Afterwards, you offer your article to a scientific journal for a peer review. All these would take you a year and a half down the road.'
The new jasmine originates from the Nimba mountains along the borders of Guinea, Liberia and the Ivory Coast. 'They're going to start mining there', says Jongkind. 'As mines threaten the biodiversity in the area, the mining company has to first carry out an environmental impact assessment. Biologists are allowed to enter the area to take stock of the existing plant and animal varieties. While mining activities could simply go ahead in the past, research comes first nowadays.' Consultancy companies and environmental protection organizations are the major sponsors of Jongkind's expeditions into West Africa.
Four years ago, he and a British colleague completed the plant life guide Woody Plants of Western Africa Forests, which described 2,200 trees, shrubs and lianas. 'We have since rounded up 2,800 known species, says Jongkind, 'but there are still many unknown ones out there. Discovering new species is made easier with this guide, which gives you a better overview.'