Discovery of new orchid in Yambaru reported in international journal

Discovery of new orchid in Yambaru reported in international journal

Yambaru yatsushiro orchid (left)and tsutsuzaki atsushiro orchid

April 7, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

Lecturer at the Kobe University graduate school of science Kenji Suetsugu has discovered two new orchid species in the forest of northern Okinawa. The species were named “yambaru yatsushiro ran” and “tsutsuzaki yatsushiro ran.” Suetsugu discovered the orchids on his walks in the forest with local hikers, and he named the plants using the local residents’ nicknames for them. Suetsugu says, “research on orchids is so advanced that it is rare to find new species. This discovery shows how rich the nature of Yambaru is.” The finding will be published in an international journal on plant taxonomy called Taxa on April 7.

The two plants are categorized as “fungus heterotrophic”, a type of plant that does not carry out photosynthesis. The plants instead take in nutrition through fungi in their roots. There has been very little known about the plants because they have no leaves and only appear during a limited period when they bloom. Suetsugu visited the forest of Yambaru on various occasions and discovered the two plants in 2012 with the of 70-year-old Tazuko Watanabe who has deep knowledge about plants in Okinawa.

“Yambaru yatsushiro” ran was mistaken for “Haruzaki yatsushiro ran” because both are the same height, about three to six centimeters, but their flowers are somewhat different in looks.

Tsutsuzaki yatsushiro ran grow up to 10-17 centimeters. As Watanabe says, “they are not written about in botanical picture books, so we started calling them “tsutsuzaki” among our friends.”

Photograph: Yambaru yatsushiro orchid and tsutsuzaki yatsushiro orchid

(English translation by T&CT and Sayaka Sakuma)

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