By Emma Marris
Nature – The two men saw a plant they did not recognize. Its plump, green seed pods resembled those of a family of plants known in Peru as sacha inchi, which produce oil rich in omega-3 fatty acids. But the pods of the new plant, later dubbed Plukenetia carolis-vegae, were bigger than those sprouted by the known sacha inchi species Plukenetia volubilis and Plukenetia huayllabambana.
Bussmann, an ethnobotanist at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St Louis, and Vega, head of the Institute for Sustainable Local Development and Andean Amazon Cultural and Biological Conservation (INBIAPERU) in Trujillo, Peru, had stumbled on a species unknown to science. Now, they hope to transform it into a ‘conservation crop’ that can be raised commercially in the shade beneath the Amazon’s forest canopy, without cutting down any trees.