A giant rainforest tree, Berlinia korupensis can grow to a towering 40 metres or more in height (3), with its crown of branches and leaves creating a half-sphere of between 30 and 35 metres in diameter (1) (3).
Despite its impressive stature, Berlinia korupensis was first noticed by scientists as recently as 2003. This gigantic tree species was initially identified as being Berlinia confusa, before a thorough examination of its flowers and of photographs of the tree in 2005 revealed that it was a species new to science (1).
Berlinia korupensis is a member of the Leguminosae, better known as the pea family (4), and is one of more than 100 new plant species discovered in Cameroon by scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, since the mid-1990s (2). It is named after Korup National Park in Cameroon, within which all known individuals of this species are found (1) (2) (3), to emphasise the park’s importance in biodiversity conservation (3).
Berlinia korupensis has a trunk of nearly 100 centimetres in diameter (3), which is supported by triangular buttresses up to 30 centimetres thick and up to 150 centimetres in height. This species is covered in striking, light whitish-brown bark, which is smooth but often flaky. The flakes detach from the bark in groups, leaving behind shallow scars which interestingly form an almost concentric pattern (1) (3).
This gigantic tree species has feather-like leaves (1), and produces large, showy white flowers (3) (4). These stunning flowers are composed of five petals, one of which is much longer and wider than the other four (1) (3). The flowers of Berlinia korupensis are grouped into clusters of two or three racemes, which are inflorescences in which each individual flower has a distinct stalk but is attached to a central stem (1). Berlinia korupensis can be distinguished from other species within its genus by this different petal arrangement (1).
This rainforest giant produces large, flat, oblong fruit pods (3), measuring over 30 centimetres long (3) (4) and about 9 centimetres wide (3). Although the seeds of Berlinia korupensis have yet to be observed, each pod is thought to contain between one and four seeds (1) (3).
- Height: up to 42 m (1) (2)
- Trunk diameter: 88 cm (1)