On part of a research expedition to the limestone caves of southwest China in 2009 and 2010, researchers came across something very unexpected of its kind, a plant. What were found were three species of plants that thrived in low light conditions: Pilea cavernicola, Pilea Shizongensis, and Pilea guizhouensis—all of which fall under the family of Urticaceae, the nettle family. According to a recent Discover News article, these plants can survive in light conditions as low as .04 % of full daylight which explains how these plants can grow anywhere from the entrance to the back of these caves.

Because these are restricted to only several locations, two of the species of nettles are classified as vulnerable while the other is considered as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. In fact P. shizongensis can only be found in one locality in fewer than 5 locations. Mining, urbanization and tourism pose as threats to exploitation of these areas especially if roads encroach further into the nettles’ habitats. By researching more about these species, scientists can offer better conservation considering China’s evolving state.

You can read more about the plant in this research paper published last December in PhytoKeys.