Sunday, 24 June 2012

Orchid space therapy

We go back in time to a strange story from 1980, when it was reported that two Soviet cosmonauts aboard the Salyut space were instructed to tend orchids during their stay ‘to help keep up their spirits’, Tass reported. The flowers were cultivated in a greenhouse shipped to Salyut-6 apparently aboard the Progress cargo craft which docked with Salyut before cosmonauts Leonid Popov and Valery Ryumin (pictured on this contemporary Russian stamp) boarded the station.

The orchid they grew was called Cosmonaut – not a very original name, but there you go.

If that isn’t odd, there’s more.

In 1988, Vladimir Tyurin, 36, a gardener at the botanical gardens flower-napped Cosmonaut from the Academy of Sciences botanical garden in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. He planned to sell it on the black market to an orchid collector. Sadly, the flower died during the bungled attempt.

Cosmonaut was considered priceless and was still being used in biological and genetic experiments because of its space origin. The newspaper said years of study had been wasted because of the early demise of the space orchid, the only one ever grown in a weightless environment.

This wasn’t the first of Tyurin’s botanical escapades. Police followed a trail of rare flowers sold recently on the black market in their eight-day hunt. They arrested Tyurin, who used his pass key to the hot houses for the raid.The only flaw in his scheme was that he failed to remove the tags identifying the stolen flowers as coming from the Academy of Sciences garden in Kiev, making it easy for police to trace their origin. Tyurin would sell the rare orchids to collectors in Moscow at handsome prices. For one shipment of top grade orchids he earned more than $3,200.


Saturday, 16 June 2012

New orchid tribute

Nepali scientist Bhakta Bahadur Raskoti and his team have come across a new species of orchid at Langtang National Park, according to local press.

The new orchid has been named Neottia chandrae to commemorate conservationist Chandra Gurung, who died in a helicopter crash in Taplejung in 2006.

Raskoti, who has also published a book on orchids, has photographed more than 400 orchid species in the country. Neottia chandrae is found in central Nepal, where it is threatened by overgrazing. The newly discovered terrestrial species grows in moist humus-rich slopes in Abies forest.

Spiders on the web

There are only five Audas’ Spider orchid in the world, all in Victoria. State government cuts had threatened to kill off the species – and 30 other endangered orchids – until the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority launched a ground-breaking research program at Horsham, according to an article in the Australian press.

Program leader Dr Noushka Reiter will soon begin introducing 3,000 Metallic Sun orchids into south-west Victoria to help boost its population of just 30 flowering plants in Victoria and 1,000 worldwide. The reintroduction of the rarer Audas species will begin next year.

It is said to be the first large-scale reintroduction of an endangered orchid species in Australia.

Each species of flower is pollinated by a particular species of wasp via process of sexual deception’, meaning the wasp mistakes the flower for another wasp.

The tiny seeds are scattered by wind and only germinate if they land on soil occupied by mycorrhizal fungus.

A specialist laboratory will simulate this process whereby orchid seedlings are created by introducing the seed to the stringy fungi in petri dishes in large numbers.

Pictured above: Australian orchid, the Candy Spider Orchid (Caladenia versicolor)