The Pandanus Candelabrum is more than just a fairly dull-looking, palm-like plant found in Africa – it is also a clue to where diamonds might be hidden.
This rare species is very particular about its living conditions, and as such will only grow in soil fit for a diamond. The discovery was made by Stephen Haggerty from the Florida International University while he was investigating the plant in Liberia.
The reason for this link is kimberlite, a kind of igneous rock that arranges itself huge vertical columns in the Earth’s crust. Extending deep into the mantle, it was formed during ancient volcanic eruptions that simultaneously pushed diamonds up towards the Earth's surface.
Pandaus Candelabrum, meanwhile, will only grow where kimberlite is also present due to its high levels of potassium, phosphorus and magnesium - all of which it needs in order to survive.
Just because a Pandaus Candelabrum plant is growing somewhere, it is no guarantee that a search for diamonds will prove successful, but it certainly narrows down the odds – Haggerty told Science that diamonds can be found close to the plant in roughly one in a hundred cases.