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