New species of orchid found in S.Thailand
The Paribatra orchid was named after the waterfall where it was discovered
A team of botanists from Prince of Songkla University have described a new species of orchid, Aphyllorchis periactinantha, at the Paribatra waterfall in Ton Nga Chang wildlife sanctuary in the southern province of Songkhla.
A team of scientists led by Sahut Chantanaorrapint, a professor from Prince of Songkla University biology department first identified the new species. Sahut said the Paribatra orchid had been named after the waterfall where it was first discovered.
New species of orchid discovered in Songkhla
Blooms come in white and soft yellow colours and their flowering season runs from October to December. Branches can grow up to 150 centimetres and are full of flowers, Sahut said.
Thailand’s national flower is home to 1,500 different orchids. They grow in jungles and forests, but you may see them growing on the side of the road. In addition, the country is the number one orchid exporter in the world.
Aphyllorchis is a member of one of the largest orchid groups – mycoheterotrophic – with 19 species, mainly distributed in tropical Asia and the Himalayas, extending to Japan and Australia.
Approximately 26,000 species of orchid are known to science. This makes it probably the largest of all plant families. We are not even close to a complete inventory of the world’s flora. In the year 2013, for example, nearly 370 new orchid species were described, and this was by no means an exceptional year.
Mycoheterotrophy – mykes (fungus), heteros (different) and trophe (nutrition) – is an unusual way that some plants get their food. A few plants – mostly those that live in very dark conditions – have lost most of their chlorophyll in the course of their evolution. These forest plants depend on fungus to replace photosynthesis as a source of carbon and energy.
In effect, these plants are parasites on the fungus, cheating it of the carbon resources the fungus itself has stolen from surrounding photosynthetic plants. Around 400 species in 10 families have lost all chlorophyll and receive all their carbon from green plant hosts via fungal connections.
New species of orchid has no commercial value
Apart from the Ton Nga Chang sanctuary, Aphyllorchis periactinantha can also be found in the Ban Yang Ko community forest in Songkhla and certain locations in Yala and Narathiwat provinces.
Sahut said the orchid will not have much market value as it cannot be bred as an ornamental plant.
Before the discovery, the area around the waterfall had been developed as a tourist spot and was in poor condition. As sanctuary staff managed the restoration of the area, bacteria and fungi which are good for mycoheterotrophic plants flourished.
Details of the discovery of the new species of orchid were published in the international botanical journal, PhytoKeys.
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