Thursday, January 07, 2010

Rare Australian Plant Has Been Cloning Itself For At Least 43,000 Years

There are believed to be only 500 examples of this native Tasmanian shrub, King's Lomatia (Lomatia tasmanica), growing in the wild south west of the island.

From Wikipedia :

The plant has shiny green leaves and bears pink flowers, but yields neither fruit nor seeds.

King's Lomatia is unusual because all of the remaining plants are genetically identical. Because it has three sets of chromosomes (a triploid) and is therefore sterile, reproduction occurs only vegetatively: when a branch falls, that branch grows new roots, establishing a new plant that is genetically identical to its parent.

Although all the plants are technically separate in that each has its own root system, they are collectively considered to be one of the oldest living plant clones. Each plant's life span is approximately 300 years, but the plant has been cloning itself for at least 43,600 years (possibly up to 135,000 years).