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‘World’s ugliest Orchid’

  • Category
    Environment
  • Published
    29th Dec, 2020

A newly described species of orchid from Madagascar has been called "the ugliest orchid in the world". 

Context

A newly described species of orchid from Madagascar has been called "the ugliest orchid in the world". 

About

  • The leafless orchid, named Gastrodia agnicellus,grows underground in decaying leaf litter for most of its life cycle, and is nourished by fungus.
  • It is one of 156 plants and fungal species named by Kew scientists and their partners around the world in 2020, has been crowned “the ugliest orchid in the world”.
  • The 11 mm flowers of this orchid are small, brown and rather ugly.
  • Like most orchids, this species is a perennial plant, meaning it could live for many years, and has a symbiotic relationship with a fungus.
  • While other orchids only depend on their fungus symbiote for food at the start of their lives, Gastrodia agnicellus doesn’t have any cells for photosynthesis so relies on its fungus for its entire life.
  • Status: Although assessed as a threatened species, the plants have some protection because they are located in a national park.

Orchids

  • Orchids are a family of monocotyledons. They have, like other monocots, a single seedling leaf and their floral parts in threes.
  • Orchids are one of the largest families of flowering plants, challenging the daisy or sunflower family, the Asteraceae (Compositae), for the title of the largest of all families.
  • Currently there are known to be 25,000 species of orchids and estimates, based on the current rate at which new species are being discovered and described.
  • Orchids are a cosmopolitan family found all the way from within the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego and the islands south of Australia.
  • They are absent only from open water and from true deserts.
  • The smallest orchid is thought to be Bulbophyllum minutissimum
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