Thursday, March 27, 2008

Orchid Species Now Extinct in Burma

"The number of species of wild flowers has been falling steadily in Burma, most notably species of rare orchids...the Rainbow Orchid and the Hirsute Paphiopedilum, are completely extinct inBurma.The Rainbow Orchid (Paphiopedilum wardii) andthe Hirsute Paphiopedilum (Paphiopedilum villosum) were first discovered in the valleys of Putao and Nagmung in northernKachin State some 20 years ago.According to an orchid horticulturist from the Myanmar Florist Association, it was not possible to locate either of the species when updating theassociation's list of wild orchids in November 2007....why Burma's wild flowers are under threat... one possible reason is the demand from Chinese pharmacists for... orchids that are used to produceherbal medicines in China....According to a Burmese orchid buyer, Chinese merchants pay 30,000 kyat (US $27) to 100,000 kyat ($91) for a viss (1.6 kilograms) of wild orchids from Burma....Wild orchids which can be used as medication can be sold for up to $4,000 a ton on the Chinese market, he said."There are more than 20 wild orchids, such as Pierard's Dendrobium (Dendrobium pierardii), the Musky Smelling Dendrobium (Dendrobiummoschatum), the Hairy Column Foot Dendrobium (Dendrobium capillipes), that are used for herbal medicines. Some are good for the human liver and eyes, and they also substitute as multi-vitamins," he added.There are several large orchid plantations and orchid projects in Burma, but only run for commercial reasons. Collectors and horticulturalistsmostly get orchid seeds from Western countries and grow them in Burma for profit.The rare orchids that are being sold to Chinese herbalists usually originate with rural people in Burma, who peel wild orchids from trees andgrow them privately in their gardens.According to a gardener at Pyi Oo Lwin Advanced Orchid Garden in Central Burma: "Many orchids... which are known for their medicinal qualities, arealways being stolen from the gardens."Pyi Oo Lwin Advanced Orchid Garden is the largest orchid garden in the country with more than 300 orchid species.According to the Myanmar Forestry Department statistics, there are... 841 species in Burma."URL : : [caption : "Customers at the Thai-Burmese border can buy rare wild orchids from Burma."]

Tiny orchid back from extinction

"A... species that was presumed extinct has been found on the slopes of
Mount Wellington.

The dense midge orchid was last recorded in 1852 and had been listed as
extinct in Tasmania.

The orchids are about five centimetres high, with a cluster of tiny flowers.

A Threatened Orchid Project Officer, Matt Larcombe, says 60 patches of the
tiny orchid have been found on Council and private land in South Hobart.

"A local field naturalist, Kevin Bonham, actually discovered it," said Mr
"He saw some leaves [orchid ?] late last year that he though were a bit odd
and went back up this year to have a look and see what they turned into...
it turned out to be the dense midge orchid.

"They're tiny... 4 to 7 centimetres tall and very fine so unless you're
really down on your hands and knees looking you'd just miss them and you've
got to be there at that right window when they're actually in flower to
actually see them or else there's nothing above ground, just a tuber below
ground." "


photos :



A terrestrial orchid species thpught to be extinct in Tasmania has recently been rediscovered. Corunastylis nudiscapa has been located on the slopes of Mt Wellington near Hobart during a search for Land Snails by officers of the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries,Water and Environment (DPIWE). This species has not been recorded since the type species was collected in 1840. Growing in sandy soil occuring on the eastern foothills of the mountain, the officers were initially unable to immediately identify the plant but formal identification came quickly as C. nudiscapa has no Tasmanian species with which it could be confused. It is a Dwarf Midge Orchid with tightly congested inflorescence of crowded reddish-brown to purplish glabrous nodding flowers and was only known from this single location. Great news and a psychological boost to those who never say never. Now all we need to do is get the same department to protect those other species rapidly heading in the same direction.
Alan W Stephenson
National Conservation Officer
Australasian Native Orchid Society


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Kevin Bonham said...

The comments by Alan Stephenson are much appreciated but just a little bit inaccurate in places. :) For starters, I wasn't an officer of DPIW (as DPIWE is now known) at the time of the rediscovery, although I do work for them now and then. The find was made in my spare time and not while working for anyone. I wasn't looking specifically for snails at the time, although snails are my main area of expertise and I had been sussing out a possible snail locality earlier on the same walk.

Also while I made no attempt to identify the orchid to species when I first saw the plants out of season in August last year, I did work out what it was when I found it this April - although it took two hours to be confident enough to fire off the relevant emails. Finally, there is another known past location about 20 km away based on an 1852 specimen, but that has only come to light in quite recent herbarium work (and I was actually not aware of that work when I IDd my specimen).

Sad to read about the Burmese orchids apparently snuffing it; one can only forlornly hope that their death notices are also premature.

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