Friday, 21 March 2014

Hotspot orchids under the microscope

What is the greatest risk to orchids?

Inclement weather? Violent events such as landslides or earthquakes? Disease?

No, it’s habitat destruction driven by urban and tourist development and industrial, agricultural and mining pressure.

This is the sad finding of a valuable tome on the massive variety of orchid in a biodiversity hotspot.

Experts studied flora in Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Hispaniola, and produced a highly respectable 640-page volume with detailed accounts of the 594 currently known orchid species in the Greater Antilles.

The stonking tome incorporates recent findings about how plant DNA is used to resolve long-standing questions about what constitutes a distinct species or group of related species, according to a report.

Did you know that orchids rank among the most species-rich family of flowering plants in the Greater Antilles, which extend from Cuba in the west to Anegada, an island of the British Virgin Islands, in the east? In fact, there are 120 species of Lepanthes.

Here’s a lovely sentiment from Dr. Ackerman, a professor of biology at the University of Puerto Rico:

“I have hope that the orchid flora of the Greater Antilles is unusually resilient after disturbance and there is some indication that this may be so. hange has always occurred. We certainly have the capacity to dramatically accelerate the process and we also have the ability to minimize the detrimental consequences. All we need is the will.”

Captions: Typical Antilles vegetation and a Lepanthes stenophylla

By Pamela Kelt

 Even in Victorian times, orchids were under threat. READ THE BOOK! The Lost Orchid is a Gothic-inspired tale of intrigue set in 1880s, when orchidelirium was raging ... Out on 4 April from

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