Today’s guest: Begonia giganticaulis, the world’s tallest begonia
Sofia: Hello, I’m Sofia Ceiba! Today we come to you from southern Tibet where we are going to meet a plant that has just been described by science. She is a begonia species, and her new scientific name is Begonia giganticaulis. She says we can call her Sonia Begonia. Welcome to Talking to Plants, Sonia.
Sonia Begonia: Thanks, Sofia, it’s great to meet you.
Sofia: So what is it like being a newly discovered plant? And what does it mean to be newly described?
Sonia Begonia: Well, it’s an interesting thing, Sofia. My fellow begonias and I of course knew that we existed before scientists discovered us here in our homes in the forests of southern Tibet. Being newly described means that scientists found out we were living, gave us a scientific name, and wrote a scientific paper about us giving technical details about our appearance, life history, where we live, how we are related to other types of begonias, and things like that.
People who live around our habitat have probably known that we are here for a long time. But now the whole world can learn about the giant begonias of Tibet!
Sofia: Oh, you’re famous! Do you like being a celebrity?
Sonia Begonia: It’s weird being famous. Apparently, we are the tallest species of begonia known to science. We can grow twice as tall as an adult human. Scientists were excited to discover us because of that …
… I guess that is kind of cool, but fame isn’t all you would hope it to be. There aren’t that many individuals of my species in our forests. The scientists have only counted about 1000 of us so far.
Because we are tall and rare, some people want to collect us and take us away to their plant collections. That’s pretty scary actually, because it’s another reason that we are endangered. If I have a message for how your viewers can help us wild begonias, it’s to please not collect or buy wild plants without checking to make sure that it is legal!
Sofia: Wow, that is good to know, Sonia! I’m sorry to hear that being famous isn’t as glamorous as we all hope it would be. Do you want to pretend that this interview never happened?
Sonia Begonia: No, I’m happy to talk with you Sofia! I just want people to know that there are over 2000 species of begonias, and several species are already grown by people as house plants and for landscaping. If you want a begonia, and who wouldn’t – I don’t want to brag, but we are beautiful – buy a legal begonia, and not a wild collected one.
Sofia: Thanks for talking to us about your newly described status and how people can help keep you safe, Sonia. That’s all the time we have for today. Thanks to our guest, Sonia Begonia, and until next time, be well!
Read more about the discovery of giant begonias on Mongabay.com: