Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Queen of the night reaches top ten

A night-blooming orchid is one of the Top Ten New Species list for 2012, created by the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University.

With nearly 25,000 species of orchids known, the astonishing night-blooming orchid, or Bulbophyllum nocturnum, is thought to be the only of its kind. Two scientists from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Leiden University discovered and named the plant for its rare blooming habits. Found in Papua New Guinea, this orchid blooms only at night, between 10pm to the early morning hours when it closes. See more in Orchidmania in November.

This is the fifth year for this interesting record. The list, assisted by a committee of scientists from around the world, was released on May 23.

The 2012 list also features a teensy attack wasp, underworld worm, ancient ‘walking cactus’ creature, blue tarantula, Nepalese poppy, giant millipede, sneezing monkey, fungus named for a TV cartoon character and a beautiful but venomous jellyfish.

Nominations for the 2013 list – for species described in 2012 – may be made online.

Did you know? May 23 is the birthday of the Swedish botanist who created the current system of flora and fauna classification, Carolus Linnaeus. Since Linnaeus created this system in the 18th century, almost two million species have been identified and classified, and scientists estimate that there are between eight and twelve million species total on earth.


Molecular mimicry

Perth scientists have discovered the chemical used by a local orchid to con male wasps into believing it is a female ready to mate.

According to the team, WA native warty hammer orchid (Drakaea livida) pollinates by attracting a male Thynnidae wasp by releasing 2-hydroxymethl-3-(3- methylbutyl)-5-methylpyrazine, a six-membered pyrazine ring, containing two nitrogen atoms and four carbon atomsthat females release when calling for a mate.

The male wasp lands on the orchid expecting to find a female and in the process transfers the pollen from anther to stigma in a process they call pseudo-copulation, according to a recent science article.

The team used gas chromatography with electro- and tenographic detection. The orchid chemically attracts wasps over greater distances, rather than the wasps being visually attracted.

Did you know? The Drakaea orchid is also known as the hammer orchid because of its shape and movement.


Rare slipper orchid is back

Although declared extinct, a rare slipper orchid has returned. Rediscovered in 1930 at a site in the Dales which still remains secret, careful propagation from a solitary parent has gradually increased the plant’s UK population, with sites for new stock regularly and carefully chosen in the north of England.

Kilnsey Park in Wharfedale also has seven other types of orchid among 150 different wildlflowers on its two hectare site, reports The Guardian.

The Lady's Slipper, Cypripedium calceolus, has long been prized for and was coveted by collectors as early as the first decade of the 17th century. In Victorian times, farmers brought them from the Dales to Skipton and Settle markets to sell to curio hunters from the industrial north.

Medicinal gold
The Taiwanese Council of Agriculture (COA) has unveiled a new orchid species for use in traditional Chinese medicine. It contains high levels of polysaccharides that are good for people undergoing chemotherapy.

The Golden Emperor No. 1, which took eight years to develop, is a crossbreed that contains more polysaccharides than the premium orchid species, Dendrobium huoshanense, that originated in China’s Anhui Province, writes local press.

Polysaccharides play a role in stimulating the immune system and can aid the recovery of patients from chemotherapy, said a spokesperson. Eye patients can also benefit from polysaccharides, as they activate the retinal cell layers.

The Golden Emperor No. 1, which will soon be mass produced, takes only two years to grow and can yield 8g to 12g of dried polysaccharides annually.