The peculiar plant, similar to others in the world and called "fairy lanterns", has returned to the attention of the scientific world because it was found again in 2017, after a century and a half, by a team of researchers from the Czech Republic Borneo, practically in the same places visited by the Tuscan naturalist. The news is reported in a recent article in "Phytotaxa" [Rediscovery of Thismia neptunis (Thismiaceae) after 151 years "], also the subject of the interest of numerous Italian media.
In the work, scholars praise the investigative skills of Beccari and the fundamental contributions to the knowledge of the flora of Southeast Asia provided by the Florentine naturalist, who also reproduced the Thismia neptunis in a beautiful illustration, published together with his research in the journal "Malaysia" in 1878.
Beccari decided very young to explore the unknown regions of Borneo together with the Genoese Marquis Giacomo Doria and with the support of the Raja of Sarawak, Sir James Brooke, whom he met in London where the adventurous scholar had gone to study the herbaries of Kew and the British Museum, in anticipation of his trip to Malaysia, made from 1865 to 1868.
"In Borneo - explains Chiara Nepi, head of the Botany section of the Museum of Natural History of the University of Florence - in April 1866, on the slopes of Mount Mattang in Sarawak, Beccari discovers the fragile Thismia, now preserved in our Herbarium of Malaysia ". Thus, Beccari recalls that moment, many years later, in his book "In the forests of Borneo" published in 1902: "... and several new forms of delicate and transparent Thismia ... very interesting for the botanist, were the reward of my patient search, where the wood was denser, the shade thicker, the soil richer ".
"In the Phytotaxa's article - concludes Nepi - the accent is also placed on the extreme delicacy of the environments in which this plant lives: those tropical forests that in Borneo, as well as in other areas of that area, are increasingly threatened by the expansion of crops and exploitation in general that certainly have already made many species disappear, both plant and animal, before mankind has been able to know them.