A Moment of Science

Self-destructing Palm

Biologists have discovered an intriguing new type of palm tree in Madagascar. Learn more on this Moment of Science.

Palm trees in tropical forest

Photo: crystalt728

The rare "exploding palm" found in Madagascar looks like a regular palm tree like these in Jamaica, but after one hundred years of growth, the difference becomes noticeable

Biologists have discovered an intriguing new type of palm tree in Madagascar.

For most of its life, the tree looks like a regular old palm. After about 100 years or so, a sort of large, asparagus-like stalk sprouts from its top. The stalk spreads out, and hundreds of small, white flowers appear.

As it turns out, all that growing, sprouting, and flowering burns up so much energy that a few months later, the tree calls it a life and dies.

Scientists are still unsure why the tree develops in this way. There are only about one-hundred of the trees in Madagascar, which might explain why scientists haven’t noticed it until now.

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