Pandanus candelabrum – A plant that only grows near Diamonds
An article titled “DISCOVERY OF A KIMBERLITE PIPE AND RECOGNITION OF A DIAGNOSTIC BOTANICAL INDICATOR IN NW LIBERIA” by Stephen E. Haggerty in Economic Geology Journal (April 2015) identified Pandanus candelabrum, is the first indicator species for diamond-bearing kimberlite, says Stephen Haggerty, a researcher at Florida International University in Miami and the chief exploration officer of Youssef Diamond Mining Company, which owns mining concessions in Liberia.
According to Haggerty the plant has adapted to kimberlite soils, which are rich in magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. “It sounds like a very good fertilizer, which it is,” says Haggerty, who has published the discovery in the June-July issue of Economic Geology.
Diamonds are formed hundreds of kilometers below the surface, as carbon is squeezed under intense temperatures and pressures. Kimberlite pipes bring the gems to the surface in eruptions that sometimes rise faster than the speed of sound. The pipes are rare. Haggerty says a rule of sixes applies: Of the more than 6000 known kimberlite pipes in the world, about 600 contain diamonds. Of these, only about 60 are rich enough in quality diamonds to be worth mining. West Africa has many “artisanal” operations in which people sift through river sediments for the occasional diamond eroded from a kimberlite pipe upstream. But few pipes have been found in the thick jungle. “The bush is absolutely impenetrable,” he says.
More importantly, Haggerty noticed a plant that seemed to grow only in the soil above the pipe. It has a stiltlike aerial root system, similar to mangrove trees, and rises to a height of 10 meters or more, spreading spiny, palmlike fronds. He says local people use the fronds for thatching their roofs. Working with botanists from the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, in the United Kingdom, and the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, he has tentatively identified the plant as P. candelabrum, a poorly understood species in a family that ranges from Cameroon to Senegal. He says it could be a subspecies or a new species altogether. Haggerty has confirmed the presence of the plant at another kimberlite pipe 50 kilometers to the southeast, but it does not seem to grow elsewhere.
Source Credit – Science Magazine
Research Article – Economic Geology Journal