A thorny West African palm called Pandanus candelabrum is diamond explorer’s best friend: according to an article in Forbes on the subject, this is the first plant known to grow overtop diamonds associated with underground kimberlite pipes.
Pandanus candelabrum can grow up to 10 meters or more in height, is found specifically in Liberia and according to the piece, has adapted to certain mineral conditions in soil above potentially diamond bearing kimberlites. Now, scientists are trying to determine whether the plant can be identified using satellite imagery, so that explorers can limit their search for the plant by foot.
This is not the first plant to signal ore-bearing rocks. According to Science magazine, Lychnis alpina, a small pink-flowering plant in Scandinavia, and Haumaniastrum katangense, a white-flowered shrub in central Africa, are both associated with copper.
But the new plant, Pandanus candelabrum, is the first indicator species for diamond-bearing kimberlite. Now, diamond hunters in West Africa will have a simple, powerful way of finding diamond-rich deposits, and according to geologist Steven Shirley, who works with the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington and spoke to Science magazine, diamond prospectors are going to “jump on it like crazy”.