Kamikaze Palm Baffles Botanists

Madagascar giant flowers spectacularly, then dies
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 17, 2008 3:30 AM CST
This undated photo released by the Royal Botanic Gardens, shows a newly discovered species of palm tree on the Indian Ocean Island of Madagascar. A self-destructing palm tree that flowers once every 100...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Scientists have found a gigantic—and suicidal—new species of palm tree in a remote area of Madagascar, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The tree, so big it can be seen in satellite photos, grows normally for a century or so until it spectacularly erupts with countless tiny flowers that morph into fruit. Then it dies, apparently exhausted.

The giant tree came to the attention of scientists after a picnicking French family stumbled upon a flowering one. Local villagers had known the palm existed, but nobody had ever seen it flower. Excited scientists are working to understand why the monster palm's life cycle develops as it does, and, with less than 100 of the giants left, find ways to conserve it.