Leonardo Felt “Honoured” After Meeting His Botanical Alter-Ego

A rose by any other name would taste just as sweet, but a tree by any other name would not be this scorching. Leonardo DiCaprio’s passion for the environment has now been honored with the ultimate tribute: a tree named after him.

Researchers from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in the United Kingdom discovered a tree in the Cameroon forest, which is known for its biodiversity, and named it the Uvariopsis DiCaprio.The scientists wanted to honor DiCaprio’s environmental efforts to save the rainforest, so they named a tree after him.

“We believe he was critical in preventing logging in the Ebo forest,” Kew botanist Martin Cheek told the BBC. The process of cutting and transporting trees, known as logging, increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

When it was announced that large portions of the Ebo forest, one of Central Africa’s largest rainforests, would be logged, conservationists and researchers alike were outraged. In 2020, DiCaprio, 47, launched a campaign to protect the forest, which is home to the Banen people as well as a diverse population of plants and animals. He made social media appeals, including a link to a petition that his followers could sign.

This year’s first plant officially named by Kew researchers is the “DiCaprio” tree, a small, tropical evergreen with yellow flowers sprouting from the trunk. It belongs to the ylang-ylang plant family and is already listed as “critically endangered.”

Researchers have a difficult time assessing a species’ risk of extinction until it has a scientific name, making species protection impossible. According to Cheek, last year’s discoveries serve as a reminder that time is running out to discover new species and protect them before they become extinct.

“There are still thousands of plant species and maybe millions of fungal species out there that we don’t know about,” he said. “This natural habitat that they’re growing in — especially forests, but other habitats, too — is increasingly and more rapidly being destroyed by us humans without knowing what’s there.”

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