Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Bee orchid buzz

Maltese botanist Stephen Mifsud has discovered a unique plant new to Malta.

Common in the Med, the temporary name given to this unique plant is ‘the small bumblebee orchid’ or Ophrys Bombyliflora f. parviflora.

The orchid was discovered in 2009 during the course of Mr Mifsud’s work for the Malta Environment and Planning Authority and now has been given a formal recognition in international journals.

Forty out of 26,000 are native to Malta. Although closely related to the common bumblebee orchid, the newly discovered orchid is 30 to 35% smaller in size, its colour is brighter and the shape of the flower is slightly more oblong in shape. Generally, orchids grow in garigues, phrgana and in xeric grasslands. The small bumblebee orchids have so far been found in Pembroke and in Mġarr.

Meanwhile, Blackpool Zoo is celebrating a rather different type of arrival. The large mammal team at the East Park Drive attraction discovered a rare bee orchid behind the Active Oceans Arena, a flower which has never been seen on the site before, according to the press.

The orchids have been protected with fencing and staff at the zoo contacted the Lancashire Wildlife Trust to ascertain how rare they are.

However, in the Florida Everglades, the forested water course known as the Fakahatchee wetland, local biologists fear the future of 39 different orchids, all threatened.

One in particular is the rare cigar orchid. Wildflowers everywhere need bees and other insects to help them reproduce. Some rare orchids have fragrances that attract only a single type of bee. Insects that used to pollinate the cigar orchid have disappeared, since the climate has changed and the Everglades have been drying up.

The birds and the bees can’t be relied upon for the survival of this plant, so local experts are pollinating the orchids manually, says a report. Once the seeds are harvested, they’re taken to a greenhouse and grown into plants for repopulating nature.