Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Wildlife trophies

Orchids are still apparently ‘rampantly’ smuggled across international borders in large numbers, so much so that many are on the verge of extinction. To counter this plague from such places as the fabulous misty valleys of Munnar (right), an orchid house was set up in Mizoram to preserve 87 species of orchids found in the State’s jungles and put a stop to their plunder.

So far, an amazing 54 species have been preserved, which makes happy reading for the orchid fan.

Landslides, road-making and other anthropological interventions have contributed to the problem, says Dr. D. Burman, principal scientist of the outfit, according to The Hindu Times, which has a lovely thumbnail history of their appeal and perceived medicinal qualities.

Orchidmania is truly global.


Left: Phalaenopsis tetraspis (1895), from 'A Century of Indian Orchids', plate 5, Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817—1911)

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Thank you kindly

I knew I liked Canadians. Just having a little Sunday afternoon browse and I found a mensh of The Lost Orchid (formerly Orchid Wars) in a recent Canadian Orchid Congress newsletter.

Much obliged.


Saturday, 11 August 2012

Boffins on Baffin

I love Canadians. Their quirky humour, their TV, the scenery.

While trawling for all things orchidy, I came across this little gem of bonkerosity that sums it all up.

Four botanists from Ottawa traversed 60 km of Baffin Island by canoe looking for plants no-one has ever studied. As they travelled, with shotguns on their backs to deter pushy polar bears, the Canadian Museum of Nature team found unusual ferns, Arctic versions of dandelions and … Arctic orchids.

With such a gigantic land mass, Canada’s Arctic has yet to be thoroughly explored by botanists. According to the Ottawa Citizen, they zipped through rapids in canoes laden with science gear and found ‘carpets’ of bright flowers, scarcely any weeds, and many plants that science has never identified.

One of their finds was the northern bog orchid. Small, innocuous and green, it’s found in dense patches all over the tundra. The article has a lovely photo of the orchid being preserved. (The photo above is a Tall White Northern Bog Orchid, or Platanthera dilatata (Pursh) Lindl, which probably has nothing to do with the finds on Baffin, but it's jolly elegant all the same and worth a look.)

The best bit of the article confirms my admiration for all things Canadian. ‘Other orchids were so easy to miss that they made up a game: Spot an orchid, win a piece of cake.’

Friday, 3 August 2012

Waxing lyrical on wild Irish orchids

‘Orchids are the mysterious aristocrats of the summer meadow: they lack the simple, common innocence of other wild flowers, such as daisies or buttercups. They might smell sublime – bewitching scents of vanilla, cinnamon, honey – or, equally, they might carry the stench of rotting flesh.’

So goes the intro of a delightful online piece from the Irish Times on wild Irish orchids. Yes, there are some. And they are astonishingly beautiful.

Read how this has been a great year for wild Irish orchids, including common spotted orchids as seen in County Down by naturalist Dr Rory Mellon, who works for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

Mellon thinks that this year’s ‘great smattering of orchids’ is down to the mild winter and the short but warm spring.

He waxes lyrical on how slow orchids are to flower, citing the twayblade orchid that take up to 15 years to bloom.

Ireland has 30 native species, and the Western Marsh Orchid is unique to the island, along with the rare green-winged orchid and the frog orchid.

Mellon also marks the strange, symbiotic relationship orchids have with soil fungus. The fungus feeds the orchid seed, providing it with essential nutrients, and later on, the fungus feeds off sugars in the root tips of the plants. Fine if the soil is undisturbed, but disastrous if the area is ploughed or excavated.

Find out more from the Irish Orchid Society and its charming website.

Pictures: Western Marsh orchid, green-winged orchid, frog orchid and twayblade orchid, courtesy Wikimedia