I have a new plant in my garden. This isn’t just any new plant, this is a NEW plant. I’ve been quiet about it until now as I didn’t want to get too excited about it. When I say new plant, I mean a NEW plant.
This all started late last summer. I was doing some clean up around my compost bins when I ran across a viney weed that I didn’t recognize at all. It had these curious light pink to rose colored little flowers all along it that had a sweet smell to them. At first I thought perhaps it was a type of honeysuckle, but I looked that up and compared some pictures and I was pretty sure it wasn’t a type of honeysuckle. Nor could I match it to any weeds in an identification guide for weeds that I had from college.
So, I contacted the Marion County Extension Service for assistance in identifying this weed. They walked me through a guide they had, but we could not come up with a name for the plant. They asked me to send a sample to them, which I did. I didn’t think about it much after that, until they called about 10 days later. They had been unable to identify my plant, but like me they were interested to know what it was because of the unusual pink flowers. They asked me to send another sample of the plant to a plant taxonomist at Purdue, which I did later that week.
Now I was getting quite curious about what this weed might be! Well, a few weeks after I mailed the sample to Purdue, I got call back from the plant taxonomist. (FYI, plant taxonomists are experts at identifying and determining the names of plants, what plant family they are in, etc.) This plant taxonomist, who turned out to have been a teaching assistant in a plant taxonomy class I took at Purdue my junior year, told me he had concluded that my plant was a member of the Erica family, Ericacea, but beyond that, he was stumped. He asked a few more questions about where I had found the vine and then said he was sending the sample to the Dept. of Agriculture for further analysis.
At this point, I was getting pretty excited and more curious, since no one knew what this plant was. This had obviously gone further than I had expected. I honestly thought I would get an answer from the extension service, and then when it went to Purdue, I was sure they would know. Now, my plant sample was in the hands of the Dept. of Agriculture.
I heard no more of this through the winter, until earlier this week, when I got a phone call from the Dept. of Agriculture. The gentleman I spoke to asked me more questions about where I had found the plant, etc. Basically, to make a long story short, they have concluded that this vine that I found growing by my compost bins is a NEW plant species that so far had not been identified and named!!
I asked how this new plant could be found in a place like Indiana, which is well-populated and well-explored and you would think that all plant species in this area were found and identified hundreds of years ago. Generally, new plants are found in far off places where civilization hasn’t been.
They hypothesized that since I found the vine growing around my compost bin, that perhaps the seed of the plant had come in from soil from a plant purchased at a garden center or that perhaps the seed came in with some peat moss. Peat moss comes from old bogs, which are naturally acidic, and there are often members of the Ericacea family growing near these, since this family of plants generally prefers acid soil. They had concluded that my plant is in the Ericacea family, so tend to go more with the peat moss theory. They think perhaps that some ancient seed came in with the peat moss, and that the moisture and conditions around the compost bins provided just the right environment for it to sprout and begin to grow. (Yes, seed can remain viable for a long time if the conditions are right.)
Now, if that isn’t exciting enough, the really exciting part is that because this vine has been identified as a new plant species, and I discovered it, I get to name it. I get to name it! This is a once in a lifetime, beyond my wildest gardening dreams, event. Generally, the genus name for the plant is based on the person who discovers it. I am considering Caroljeania. What do you think? The species name usually describes something about the plant, such as “giganteum” if it is a big plant. I am consider “binei”, since it was found near the compost bins, which would make it… Caroljeania binei. How does that sound?
A representative from the Dept. of Agriculture and someone from Purdue will be coming out in a few weeks to do a more extensive check around the compost bins and look at the vine again (which I believe to be a perennial plant since it is still there and is starting to show some buds this spring). They will take an official specimen to put in their archives and then they will announce the new plant in the Journal of Plant Taxonomy sometime later this summer. They will also send me an official certificate with the name of the plant and an original botanical drawing of it. I am so excited; I can’t believe this vine decided to grow by my compost bin in my own little back yard!
Oh, there is one other idea I have for a name for this new plant. How does “Aprilphools didifoolu” grab you!?