Scientists have discovered a tiny plant which they say bows down and sows its own seeds.
The dainty, inch-high plant with pink-and-white flowers was found growing in the backyard of a local plant collector in rural northeastern Bahia, Brazil, one of the world's most biologically diverse areas.
The strange behaviour of the plant caught the attention of a handyman working for the plant collector, Alex Popovkin, who believed it was a new species.
A team of scientists from Rutgers University, the State University at Feira de Santana in Bahia, and Western Carolina University then collaborated to confirm that the plant was indeed a new species, LiveScience reported.
"It is very easy to think we have found and described most plant species of the world already, but this discovery shows that there are so [many] left out there without name and recognition," Lena Struwe, a Rutgers University specialist in plants of the Loganiaceae family, said.
The researchers found only a few minuscule plants in Popovkin's field during the first year. The plants died in the dry season, only to reappear in the same spots at the beginning of the rain season.
This was due to the plant's unique propagation trait, a characteristic known as geocarpy, the scientists said.
When the plant's fruits form, the plant slowly bends its small, fruiting branches down, depositing the seed capsules carefully onto the ground -- and sometimes burying them in the soft cover of moss.
Geocarpy, which is also found with peanut plants, ensures that the seeds will grow into new plants near the mother plant during the following season, the researchers reported in the taxonomic journal PhytoKeys.
Due to the plant's dexterity, the team decided to name the new species Spigelia genuflexa.