• Researchers discovered two butterwort species in Ecuador
  • Both of them have small, beautiful flowers
  • Researchers assessed both of them to be "vulnerable"

A team of scientists has discovered two beautiful new species of carnivorous plants. They're tucked away in a remote area of Ecuador, but the plants are still facing some man-related threats.

Researchers from Ecuador, Germany and the U.S. described their findings in their paper, which was published in the journal Phytokeys last week.

The two new carnivorous species are butterworts of the insectivorous genus Pinguicula. These, according to a blog post by Pensoft Publishers, are flowering plants that catch and digest insects using their sticky leaves so as to compensate for the nutrient deficiency of the substrate that they're growing in.

There are about 115 species in the genus, but most of them are in the northern hemisphere in the Americas and Eurasia. In Ecuador, the species is only represented by the Pinguicula calyptrata.

But the researchers are now describing two new species of the genus from the high Andes in southern Ecuador, close to the Peru border. One of them is the Pinguicula jimburensis, a "terrestrial perennial rosette leaved herb" with lovely, small flowers that one can see below.

The researchers named it after the Lagunas Negras de Jimbura — part of the Yacuri National Park — where it was found.

More photos of the beautiful plant can be found here.

The other species is the Pinguicula ombrophila, which also has small, beautiful flowers. Its name ombrophila is derived from two Latin words "ombros," which means rain, and "philos," which means "that loves/is fond of" because of its preference for "very wet conditions" where it can receive constant moisture.

As exciting as these new discoveries can be, however, there are also concerns about these species' status. Both of them are known from single locations, making their distributions rather small. And in both cases, only one population with 50 (P. jimburensis) and 15 (P. ombrophila) mature individual plants were discovered. Both of them, despite occurring in protected areas, are also facing man-related threats.

In the case of the P. jimburensis, for instance, its only known habitat is said to be close to the Laguna Negra shore and is rather exposed to ritual-related human activities. There's also a trail that's quite close to the population of the new species. As for the P. ombrophila, although it is at a location that's actually hard to access, human-induced climate change threatens to alter the conditions in which the plant thrives.

For both species, the researchers assessed their conservation status to be vulnerable according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List Criteria.

"Relentless urban sprawl and the accompanying destruction of habitats pose a massive threat to biodiversity in general, and to the tightly-knit and specialized organisms that depend on their fragile microhabitats in particular," study senior author Tilo Henning of the Leibniz Center for Agricultural Landscape Research said in the Pensoft Publishers' post.

Indeed, the researchers called their discovery "both encouraging and worrying at the same time." While it shows just how much more can be discovered even in rather "well-known groups" like carnivorous plants, it also highlights the ongoing threats posed by the "unlimited urban sprawl."

"While there are evidently still pristine habitats left that inhabit an unknown biodiversity, the fact that these ecosystems are now at an accessible distance to human infrastructure puts them under immediate threat of exploitation and destruction," they wrote. "The newly described species and the still unsatisfactorily documented and understood diversity among Andean Pinguicula underline the need to continue with botanical explorations and taxonomic studies and intensify urgently needed conservation efforts."

Representative image. SplitShire/Pixabay