Best of the Internet
Today I Learned
Stories That Matter
About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy Terms of Use Accuracy & Fairness Corrections and Clarifications Ethics Code
© 2024 THEDAILYNET All rights reserved
tdn logo
tdn logo
THEDAILYNET.COM / BEST OF THE INTERNET

World's Loneliest Plant Faces Extinction as it Can't Find a Soulmate. Here's How AI Can Reunite Them

AI used by researchers to get the female variant of Encephalartos woodii amidst the dense forests of Ngoye.
PUBLISHED 5 DAYS AGO
Cover Image Source: Instagram/@lauracinti
Cover Image Source: Instagram/@lauracinti

From ChatGPT allowing users to write academic papers and code, to DALL-E transforming digital art, AI has taken the world by storm in the past couple of years. For Dr Laura Cinti, a research fellow at the University of Southampton, AI and drones have been a blessing for her exhaustive project about Encephalartos woodii, as reported by BBC. The objective of the project is to find a female variant of this plant, which is an ancient species that predates dinosaurs but has now become endangered. All the known existing members of this species on earth have been identified as males, which implies that it presently does not have the ability to reproduce. If the project is able to find the female variant of the species, the chances of this plant's survival on earth could be greatly bolstered by propagation.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | JESHOOTS.com
Representative Image Source: Pexels | JESHOOTS.com

Encephalartos woodii has been described by SANBI as a "very handsome plant" with dark glossy green leaves that have an arching shape. The plant grows to be as high as six meters, with a trunk diameter of up to 900 mm at the base, and 600 mm nearer the crown. A unique characteristic associated with this species is that in mature specimens the trunk broadens towards the base, forming a kind of buttress in order to support the weight of the trunk. E. woodii was first discovered in 1895 at the Ngoye Forest and since it was a male variant that got used in propagation, all the clones spread across various habitats by researchers were the same. For decades, researchers have been up in arms trying to get their hands on the female variant of this plant. To this date, they have not achieved any success although the species is still grown and propagated at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. Because the plant's 'other half' is still nowhere to be found, the plant species has been termed the "world's loneliest plant" by the Gardens. 


 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Laura Cinti (@lauracinti)


 

The reason Laura is so committed to finding Encephalartos woodii's female variant is because for her it is the perfect tale of "unrequited love." The plant is slowly getting wiped out of existence because it hasn't met its soulmate. "I’m hopeful there is a female out there somewhere, after all, there must have been at one time. It would be amazing to bring this plant so close to extinction back through natural reproduction,” she added.


 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Laura Cinti (@lauracinti)


 

Laura has been on a mission to analyze forests like Ngoye to search for female E. woodii, and now she has incorporated AI in her project, to increase the speed of scanning. Drones capture the image of the forests, after which it is subjected to AI analysis. Till now, less than 2% of the 10,000-acre area has been covered. Laura said, “With the AI, we are using an image recognition algorithm in order to recognize plants by shape." Data has already been fed in the AI system, to help it to identify the female plant. “We generated images of plants and put them in different ecological settings, to train the model to recognize them," Laura explained. Prior to this, all the attempts to explore the forest on a large scale had failed, but the introduction of AI has made things a lot more efficient.


 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Laura Cinti (@lauracinti)


 

POPULAR ON The Daily Net
MORE ON The Daily Net