Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Bloomin’ orchids defy records

Orchids have been flourishing across the UK, including the chalky grasslands of Bedfordshire.

At Houghton Regis Chalk Pit, Bedfordshire, reserve officers counted more than 700 common-spotted, around 140 pyramidal and three bee orchids.

It seems are thriving not only on protected nature reserves but also in the wider countryside and even gardens, reports the press.

This summer, pyramidal and common-spotted orchids have generally arrived several weeks late, which suggests recent weather has provided more suitable conditions as the season has developed.

More than 600 greater butterfly orchids have been counted at Caeau Llety Cybi reserve in Ceredigion, Wales, double the number recorded in 2010.

A musk orchid (pictured) was noted at Malling Down nature reserve, the first time the species was recorded at the Sussex Wildlife Trust site in seven years.

The fragrant orchid has reappeared at Ancaster Valley, Lincolnshire, flowering for the first time since 2004, while Flamborough Cliffs in Yorkshire have seen a huge and unexpected increase in northern marsh orchids.

In Dereham, Norforlk Wildlife Trust conservation officers counted so many common-spotted orchids that they have advised the town council to recognise the area as a county wildlife site.

According to reports, some species flower just once a number of years after germinating, and so "flushes" this year indicate suitable conditions for them in previous years, such as the wet ground last year. Other orchids can take a rest year from flowering before blooming for several years in a row.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Orchids up to their tricks again

The duplicity of orchids is well documented. Bees, for example, are tricked by orchids that disguise themselves as the brightly coloured flowers of neighbouring plants.

However, researchers have noted a new twist to this botanical decpetion. The Oncidiinae group of orchids is one of the most diverse groups of flowering plant in the world, with around 1700 different species being found across South and Central America.

What is intriguing is that most of them are able to attract pollinators without rewarding them with the valuable oil or nectar which they receive from other flowers.

In the plant world, successful fertilisation involves attracting pollinators, such as bees, to transfer pollen from one flower to another, usually in return for a reward.

Researchers from Imperial College London and Kew Gardens have noted that a specific orchid, the Trichocentrum ascendens from South America, of the Oncidiinae group, does not do this.

In a ten-year study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, they report that the Trichocentrum tricks pollinators by closely mimicking the colour and flower shape of another plant family, the Malpighiaceae, whose flowers produce a plentiful supply of oil.

Vincent Savolainen, Professor of Organismic Biology in Imperial's Department of Life Sciences, explains: "These reward-giving flowers have evolved a very special colour called bee-UV-green, that is highly distinguishable to bees' sensitive eyes. The Trichocentrum ascendens and other Oncidiinae orchids copy the special colour so precisely that bees are unable to distinguish between the flowers, visiting an orchid and pollinating them without the reward they may expect."

It could be that not producing nectar means the sneaky orchid can divert more energy to growing strong and producing more successful future generations.

Caption: Stigmaphyllon sp. (centre; Malpighiaceae) and Oncidiinae orchids Trichocentrum ascendens and Rossioglossum ampliatum (left and right; Oncidiinae: Orchidaceae)

Friday, 16 August 2013

Lost and found

Very exciting news. My novel, a Victorian adventure entitled The Lost Orchid, is now in the editing stage.

I submitted it to Bluewood Publishing last year, and it should be coming out soon. I'll keep you  posted. 

It's been a busy year. This is the sixth book to come out - the others are a mix of historical mysteries and teen fantasies. All the gen is here, on the author website.

By Pamela Kelt

Thursday, 15 August 2013

A first!

Tootling along on our summer hols, I found myself having a picnic at the edge of the Lake District. That's interesting, I thought. These meadowy slopes look just like the ones I've been featuring on Orchidmania. The photos were full of colourful British orchids.

I decided to take a closer look.

I did and boggled.

As you all know, I love orchids, but I've never seen any growing in the wild, to my shame. But there they were. Just simple common spotted orchids, but still. They were fantastic. It was rather thrilling.

Thank goodness for the strange spring we've had, which seems to have produced more native orchids than ever before.

By Pamela Kelt

Friday, 2 August 2013

Moth orchid database

Taiwan is creating a database to compile a comprehensive list of predicted molecular markers for moth orchids. The aim is to prevent future variety rights disputes, a local researcher claimed.

According to the Taipei press report, with mature technology and a standard operating procedure, they group is sure it can establish a 200-variety database by the end of the year, according to Chang Hui-ju, an assistant researcher at the Taiwan Seed Improvement and Propagation Station.

There are about 400 moth orchid varieties grown in Taiwan. The Council of Agriculture’s Taichung-based station has been developing the technology for the past three years, while liaising with experts in the Netherlands.

The station is also planning to apply the technology to other plants.

Orchids are one of Taiwan’s most important agricultural exports. Sales of Oncidium orchids showed the biggest annual increase of 25 per cent, while sales of moth orchids increased 16 per cent.