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Tuesday, March 26 2019 @ 12:39 PM UTC

New species of orchid discovered in Panama

Environmental IssuesWashington: US biologists have described a stunning new orchid species from a mountainous area in central Panama.

The Orchid family, contains the largest number of plant species in the world - up to 30,000, researchers said.

Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, stumbled upon the never-before-seen orchid while on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama eight years ago.

Unable to identify it, she contacted German Carnevali, a world authority on orchids.

The orchid turned out to be an unnamed species. So Carnevali recently named it after the Silveras: Lophiaris silverarum.

"Lophiaris" is the genus name, comprising about 40 species in the world.

Lophiaris silverarum is known to grow only in central Panama.

It is not known if it grows in other areas of Central America. The plant blooms only in November, the flowers lasting about a month.

It is not sold in the US because it is very rare and it reproduces very slowly.

Silvera said that because the Orchid Family is so large, there are many species that have not been found before. As a result, new orchid species are being named every year and the number is rising.

"The diversity of orchids is best seen in the tropics, where, unfortunately, habitat is being destroyed very fast," she said.

"As a result, we are rapidly losing the diversity of orchid species. Although there are many orchid species unnamed in nature, it is actually quite difficult to determine for sure that an orchid is unnamed. They are difficult to find and difficult to tell apart," said Silvera.

The Orchid Family contains the largest number of plant species in the world. They are the most collected group of plants by hobbyists.

Close to 30,000 known species exist worldwide; many remain undiscovered. Panama alone has about 1,100 known orchid species.

Orchids are unique in that the flower's female and male reproductive parts are fused together. An interesting aspect is that orchids can easily hybridise or cross.

As a result, some 300,000 orchid hybrids are man-made and commercially available to the public.

The finding was published in journal Phytotaxa.

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