November 22, 2011
Newly Discovered Orchid Blooms Only At Night
Botanists are excited at finding Bulbophyllum nocturnum, an orchid found to bloom only during night time. Night blooming plants are seen in a relatively small number of plant species, such as the queen of the night cactus, the midnight horror tree and night blooming jasmine, but this is the first orchid found to do so, report Mark Kinver and Victoria Gill for BBC News and Nature.
The new species, whose flowers last just one night, was discovered on New Britain island, located off the north-east coast of Papua New Guinea by Ed de Vogel, a Dutch orchid specialist, making the astonishing discovery when he was collecting orchids in a logging area.
He took the species for cultivation at the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden, the Netherlands, but when the orchid put out buds they withered just as they reached the size at which they would be expected to open. Attempting to discover what was happening Vogel took the orchid home one night where he discovered a bud opening late in the evening, Andrew Hough writing for the Telegraph.
"It was so unexpected because there are so many species of orchids and not one was known [to flower] at night only," said co-author Andre Schuiteman, senior researcher and an orchid expert at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. "It was quite remarkable to find one, after so many years of orchid research, that is night-flowering," he told BBC News.
The new species belongs to a group known for their bizarre flowers that can variously resemble leggy insects, small hairy spiders to intricate sea creatures and often have thin filaments which make them move erratically in the breeze - possibly to attract insects.
This particular orchid is small, maybe one-half inch wide and has yellow-green sepals that unfurl to reveal tiny petals adorned with dangling, greyish, thick and thin appendages.
Schuiteman said the exact reason why B. nocturnum would only flower after dark would remain a mystery until further field studies had been completed.
He continues, explaining, "It was so unexpected because there are so many species of orchids and not one was known to be pollinated at night. It was quite remarkable to find one, after so many years of orchid research, that is night-flowering."
"This is another reminder that surprising discoveries can still be made. But it is a race against time to find species like this that only occur in primeval tropical forests."
He called for areas to be left untouched: "It is the government that gives permits to log a particular area, so we should be asking them to protect areas and not issue permits for everything."
The findings appear in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.
Image Caption: Flower of the night-flowering orchid Bulbophyllum nocturnum. Credit: Andre Schuiteman
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