Friday, 27 February 2015

Orchid wine

Apple, elderberry, even parsnip. You can make wine from anything, except, God forbid, tomatoes, in the immortal words of wine expert Mr C.J.J. Berry, whose book I still use.

Never in my life did I think to see a story about orchid wine. It seems that a Taiwanese university known for making cosmetics from orchid extracts is working with local farmers to brew a wine from a certain variety of orchid.

The name is Moonbeam wine (not moonshine, of course!). Apparently, it’s made from an orchid breed called I-Shin Venus, which is noted for its sweet aroma, said Chen Hong-hwa, head of National Cheng Kung University's Orchid Research Center.

It doesn't sound real, but here's a link to prove I'm not making it up.

The P. I-Shin Venus is a new variety made by crossing the P. bellina – known for its sweet aroma – with the multi-flowered P. equestris. Just imagine a combination of the two pictured.

Chen is head of the research team that developed the I-Shin Venus and the Moonbeam wine in collaboration with local farmers.

In 2013, the team created a line of facial products using embryonic stem cells extracted from orchids.

Thanks to technological advancements, says the report, the centre can now obtain good quality and quantity extracts and embryonic stem cells from orchids to make a variety of products, said Hsiao Yu-yun, a researcher.

I've heard of Falernian wine, but Phalaenopsian? I wonder.


By Pamela Kelt

Dracula orchids in distress

Strange Dracula orchids may look frightening, but these Central American and north-west Andes rarities are under threat from deforestation.

“Dracula” applies to a whole genus of orchids, including some species that are blood-red and have long, pointed sepals.

Conservation groups are calling for the creation of a new nature reserve in the Chocó region of north-western Ecuador to protect newly identified species.

Rainforest Trust and Fundación EcoMinga have the opportunity to purchase a 650-acre area of land where two species of orchid, the Dracula terborchii and Dracula trigonopetala, were recently discovered – and they are exclusive to this region.

The unique climate of the Chocó region is created by clouds coming in from the Pacific ocean and meeting with the western side of the Andes, creating constant mists. It’s one of wettest tropical forests in the world.

Although there are thousands of orchid species around the world, a third of them originate from Colombia and Ecuador. Experts believe it’s possible that this small reserve could hold five percent of all the orchids on the planet. on a single branch of a tree festooned with epiphytes, there may be dozens of species of orchids. It’s likely that there are additional undiscovered species is this area.

To fund future protection, Rainforest Trust and Fundación EcoMinga hope to help establish a small ecotourism site at the reserve – according to an online report.

Captions: Masdevallia chimaera var. roezlii;Cloud forest under threat

By Pamela Kelt

Friday, 13 February 2015

Orchid boost

One of the best sites for butterfly orchids in Wales is benefiting from the ‘Grow One Sow Ten’ appeal which has unlocked £7,000 of funding.

The Cae Blaen-dyffyn nature reserve, and the Coronation Meadow for Carmarthenshire, will see improved access as well as funds for ongoing conservation grazing and tree work, thanks to operator CWM Environmental Limited. 

Wild flower seeds will also be collected from the nature reserve to create a new wild flower meadow next to the reserve.

In another story from Plantlife, it reports on its battle against cotoneaster that’s invaded the pristine habitat on Portland in Dorset, which has resulted in the happy return of white orchid Autumn Lady’s-Tresses and other native beauties such as Portland Spurge, fire-dot lichen and Horseshoe Vetch. 

The garden escapee smothers wild flowers but worst hit of all are the rare and intricate lichens and mosses that give Portland its international importance. It’s been clearing large areas of Penn’s Weare on the East coast of the island, thanks to funding by SITA Trust and support from Dorset Wildlife Trust.

Butterfly orchid
Autumn Lady’s-Tresses

Friday, 6 February 2015

Behold: a new ‘warty’ orchid

With armed guards to kept drug smugglers and illegal loggers at bay, an intrepid team of UK botanists trekked through the Cardamom Mountains of Cambodia – and found a strange orchid.

They brought it back to Kew, where it flowered in December, forming a weird, maroon flower with a distinctly warty look. It turned out to be a brand new species, belonging to the genus Porpax.

Sadly, it’s not on display, but there’s a photograph of the previously undocumented bloom. It is one centimetre long and tubular, and rather different from anything you’ve ever seen. (Pictured is a similar flower, Porpax meirax, slightly paler in colour, and wart-free, but sufficient to give you an idea.)

Porpax is a genus of epiphytic orchids native to southern and south-eastern Asia from India to Yunnan to Borneo. Up to this find, it had contained only 13 currently recognised species as of June 2014.

Caption: a Porpax meirax, of the same genus. Plate 7329 in Curtis's Botanical Magazine (Orchidaceae), vol. 119, (1893).

By Pamela Kelt