Inca-redible Discovery: WFU biologists find a new genus of tree growing along an ancient Inca path in Peru

When you're 100 feet tall, ooze white glue and hang out with friends exactly like you, going incognito seems next to impossible.

Yet a team of Wake Forest and Smithsonian researchers just identified a new genus of tree in the Peruvian Andes, one that’s been eluding scientists for….ever.

“Finding this tree isn’t like finding another species of oak or another species of hickory – it’s like finding oak or hickory in the first place” says Wake Forest biologist Miles Silman.

How has an entire tree genus eluded scientists?

It lives far away, in a place where trees outnumber people, and where there is a larger variety of tree species than anywhere else in the world.

Think needle in a haystack.

Peruvian botanists are significantly rarer than this tree. Science can be slow, and verification can take decades.

Thankfully, while studying biodiversity as it applies to climate change, Silman and his graduate student, William Farfan-Rios, chose to go out and find what trees were actually in the Andes.

And made a discovery for the ages.  
World, meet Incandron esseri, the current world record holder for hide-and-go-seek. 

Inca-redible Discovery

Wake Forest biology graduate student, William Farfan-Rios, and Smithsonian botanist, Kenneth Wurdack, published their findings in PhytoKeys. Like many species in the tropical forests of the Andes, Incandron esseri is vulnerable to climate change. The trees are also susceptible to the deforestation taking place in Peru, largely attributed to illegal gold mining. Farfan-Rios, who is a native of Peru, says that while more studies are needed, their research in the Andes “highlights the imperative role of parks and protected areas” in the region and throughout the world.

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