A Tree for Leo

U. dicaprio; L. DiCaprio. Photo-Illustration: The Cut: Photos: Lorna MacKinnon/Getty Images

If Leonardo DiCaprio is widely known for one thing, it is probably saving stuff, no? Maybe you thought I was going to say Titanic or dating young models, but let us consider the record. Huskies drowning in a frozen lake? Not on Leo’s watch. A man treading water off of St. Barts for 11 freaking hours with a rainstorm closing in? “Turn this yacht around!” is probably what Leo said en route to the rescue if it weren’t, say, the captain who actually spotted the guy. Meryl Streep’s bare ass, on the brink of a nude scene she reportedly felt perfectly fine about but he felt was somehow beneath her? Leo, guardian of butts, at your service. Deforestation generally, and in one of Central Africa’s biggest untouched rain forests specifically? He hates it! “Let’s help #SaveEboForest,” he wrote on Instagram in August 2020, probably not expecting that he would earn himself recognition in the form of a whole type of tree. Life is funny that way.

According to the BBC, scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, are naming a “small tropical evergreen” exclusive to Cameroon’s Ebo Forest after DiCaprio because, according to one Dr. Martin Cheek, they “think he was crucial in helping to stop the logging” there. The government had previously slated parts of the forest for chopping by the “highest bidder,” per The Guardian, not caring that it is home to a number of threatened species, flora and fauna that don’t exist anywhere else, and the Banen people, who have already suffered displacement thanks to French colonialists. Faced with international pressure — from groups like Greenpeace but also from Leonardo DiCaprio, who appended a petition to his post on the issue, which had 880,714 views at time of writing — the government dropped its plans. And now, Kew scientists would like to give Leo the legacy of a tree in honor of his service. (He has nearly 52 million followers, which is pretty significant reach.)

I bet you are wondering, What does the tree look like? Well, first, it has a name — Uvariopsis dicaprio — and second, it “has glossy yellow flowers that grow from its trunk,” according to the BBC. It stands about four meters tall, and is “so spectacular,” Dr. Cheek told the New Scientist. “This is a plant which, for a botanist, just jumps out at you.” Researchers must scientifically name a thing before they can accurately gauge its extinction risk, but right now, fewer than 50 U. dicaprios have been recorded, and only in one unprotected part of the forest. Oh no, save the dicaprios.

A Tree for Leo