In Benin, an African Naturalist Records an Amazing Plant - Observation Week, 3/16/21

Our Observation of the Week is this Amorphophallus dracontioides plant, seen in Benin by @bahleman!

Amadou Bahleman Farid resides in Tanguieta, the main town of Pendjari National Park in northern Benin (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and is currently studying Abyssinian Ground-Hornbill (Bucorvus abyssinicus) population, distribution and habitat use for his master’s thesis. He was inspired to work in biodiversity conservation by his father and uncle, who are retired Water, Forest, and Hunting officers. “They have devoted more than half of their career to activities in the fight against poaching and the conservation of fauna and its habitat in the biosphere reserves of Pendjari and W-Benin,” he explains, “which made me aware that the major issue of the 21st century is the conservation of nature.”

While he’s always been passionate about birds, Farid tells me he’s also interested in insects, plants, mammals and freshwater fish, and has taken photos of wildlife for many years 

with the goal that one day I would find the opportunity to work or collaborate as an explorer for institutions like National Geographic for the production of documentaries about wildlife and their habitats. However, they were not the best photos since I only had a small camera with a very low megapixel count.

In 2017, Farid met Dr. Horst Oebel, a German who’s lived in Benin for more than 20 years. Dr. Oebel runs the RBT-WAP | GIC-WAP program, a program that supports the management and conservation of the protected areas of the complex W-Arly-Pendjari and at the same time he is a very active member of the NGO OeBenin and manages the NGO's account on iNat.

Farid first heard about iNat from Dr. Oebel and started using it in earnest in 2019 after Dr. Oebel gave him access to better cameras. “Once I started using iNat I felt useful in conserving biodiversity through my observations by contributing to science, and scientists started to take an interest in me to be of service to them,” he explains. That includes his observations of Amorphophallus dracontioides, for which he’s the current iNat observation leader.

For a few months now I have been helping botanist Evan Milborrow (@evnep), a researcher based in South Africa, who is particularly interested in African species of Amorphophallus which are incredibly under-studied and about which very little is known. So, I help him collect and find research material (seeds from all African species of Amorphophallus), ideally with rough geographic information (the region they came from) in order to keep track of their locality and organize them correctly into a botanical collection. 

The genus Amorphophallus ranges through Africa, Asia, and Australia, as well as various islands. From an underground tuber they produce one leaf and one inflorescence. The inflorescence has both male flowers and female flowers on the lower part of the inflorescence, the latter of which are receptive to pollen only on the day it blooms. To attract flies and other carrion eaters, Amorphophallus dracontioides emits a smell “reminiscent of rotting carcass and excrement” according to POWO, and Farid concurs, saying some of the plants he found were quite pungent. According to Purdue University, the corms of the plant [I’ve seen “corm” and “tuber” used in different descriptions of the plant, does anyone know which is correct? - Tony] can be “eaten after being cut up, repeatedly washed, and boiled for one or two days” and are considered a famine food

Bahleman Farid (above) admins two projects on iNat, Biodiversite en Zone Girafe Niger and African Spurred Tortoises in West Africa, and tells me he’s taught more than 100 tourist guides, academics, students, schoolchildren (below), and others working to conserve protected areas. 

iNat is the tool that our NGO SOS Savane mainly uses for environmental education sessions in schools around the W-Arly-Pendjari complex through specific transects. The schoolchildren are then introduced to digital tools and discover the biodiversity of their regions with smartphones equipped with iNat.

(Farid speaks French and used machine translation for his responses, which were then lightly edited for clarity.)


Easily the most famous member of Amorphophallus is A. titanum, known as the titan arum or corpse flower. This video delves into its pollination process.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, March 16, 2021 20:08

Comments

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Wonderful story. Beautiful plant.

Posted by bobby23 30 days ago (Flag)
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Great photo and article. The inside of the plant looks like an image of a planet!

Posted by sacredkingfisher 30 days ago (Flag)
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Fantastique! @bahleman

Posted by kitty12 30 days ago (Flag)
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@bahleman my friend, so proud of you. Please keep the good work and hope to get a chance to to go to a field trip with you soon.

Posted by vijaybarve 30 days ago (Flag)
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Awesome article! Keep up the fantastic work :)

Posted by twan3253 30 days ago (Flag)
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Superbe photo. Une belle plante avec une odeur désagréable, quel dommage.

Posted by patsimpson2000 29 days ago (Flag)
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Fantastic job Bahleman, and beautiful pictures!

Posted by claudia_ma 29 days ago (Flag)
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Amazing and inspiring history.!!!
Farid, you are a nature conservation hero. Go ahead @bahleman

Posted by geomanuel 29 days ago (Flag)
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@bahleman I have never seen a plant like this one! I love seeing what nature does for us! Keep iNating!

Posted by myles678 29 days ago (Flag)
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Wonderful! I love this picture. Good job Dear Farid

Posted by bignon 29 days ago (Flag)
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I love aroids! What a wonderful find!!

Posted by cesarcastillo 29 days ago (Flag)
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Thanks for bringing this wonderful flower to us. Congratulations!

Posted by nelson_wisnik 29 days ago (Flag)
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Very inspiring!

Posted by feistyone 29 days ago (Flag)
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c'est magnifique, époustouflant...........

Posted by azogbonon 29 days ago (Flag)
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Great work, @bahleman!

Posted by cthawley 29 days ago (Flag)
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Fantastic work Farid! Thank you so much!

Posted by susanhewitt 29 days ago (Flag)
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Thank you all for your comments I am really delighted; we still have a lot to explore.

Posted by bahleman 27 days ago (Flag)
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Congratulations

Posted by aheco 27 days ago (Flag)

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