Saturday, 20 October 2012

Good luck, bad vibe?

A newly-found orchid species in Vietnam is making billionaires crazy, lusting for the Dendrobium farinatum, the new species believed to bring good luck to the owners. It was found in the Khanh Hoa eco-region in the central region of Vietnam. Truong Quang Tam from the Tropical Biology Institute confirmed that the orchid species is indigenous to Vietnam alone. According to Dr Nguyen Cong Thoai, a specialist in genetics, the orchid species was first mentioned in a journal published in Germany in 2004. In an article, H. Schildhauer and W.Schraut wrote that the orchids were sourced from Vietnam, which were then imported to Germany with commercial purpose. The article said that it was still unclear about the origin of the orchids, but it is believed to be found in Lai Chau province in the northwest of Vietnam.

The orchids grow in the areas 800-900m higher than the sea water level. Scientists have officially recorded its presence at the Hon Ba Sanctuary in the central province of Khanh Hoa, 1200-1500m higher than sea level. This is for the first time the
orchids have been recognised formally in the natural environment in Vietnam. The collected orchid samples bloomed in July. Researchers are now carrying out surveys on the location and eco-region. Their findings could help solve how to protect and develop the species. There have been rumours that the orchids can bring good luck and help the owners overcome misfortune. Billionaires in HCM City have been hunting for the orchids throughout the country, and are happy to splurge their cash. Some of them have even paid a deposit to traders to ensure that they would get the orchids one day.

Elsewhere, folk are claiming the orchids can treat diseases – and that tea from the dried orchid petals are rejuvenating. Sounds rather sinister to me.


Raring to go

Metallic sun orchids. What a name to conjure with. They are rare, with only a thousand or so left in the world, tucked away in Victoria and South Australia.

According to the ABC, the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority is leading an effort to revive the endangered species’ population. Researchers have been cultivating the orchid in lab conditions and now volunteers are planting around 3,000 of them throughout west and south-west Victoria.

Experts did their homework, checking out the mycorrhizal fungi along with local temperature which were replicated indoors. Once in flower, the knee-high metallic sun orchids sport large, cup-shaped, brightly-coloured flowers in reds, blues, yellows and greens, all with a metallic glint.

Meanwhile, ‘beautiful orchids with beastly names’ are blooming in Queensland’s at Vale Park on the River Torrens where another team of fans working with botanist Heather Whiting has established the Vale Park Our Patch to bring native orchids and lilies back to the plains.

Farming and urban development reduced the variety of orchids from the original 50 or 100 different species to a single orchid, says a report.

Now the group has reintroduced 20 varieties and created a wildflower walk, featuring many species including the rare king spider orchid which attracts a male wasp by taking on the guise of his hairy, wingless female. Donkey orchids, apparently, pretend to be bush peas.

Caption: Spider Orchid (Caladenia integra) in Western Australia.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Budding interest

Let's be blunt. In the past, only old people liked orchids. Times have changed. A West Country teacher, no doubt bitten by the orchidmania bug, has inspired his young pupils to achieve great things.

Check out a genuinely inspirational article on how orchids and the next generation can change the world.

The Writhlington School orchid project in Radstock is a delightful example, not just about botany, but about encouraging pupils to think globally. Thanks to an orchid project developed by teacher Simon Pugh-Jones, the school has links to the Indian Himalayan state of Sikkim, Laos in South East Asia, South Africa and Rwanda.

Better still, the school is to host to an international gathering of orchid experts at British Orchid Congress at the school later this month. Impressive.