Rediscovered plant species: Telipogon jucusbambae

What is it? Telipogon jucusbambae, a rediscovered species in the orchid family.

Where was it found? It’s endemic to northern and central Peru in South America, where it grows in Andean cloud forests. Local people call the plant ushun.

And it’s been rediscovered? Yes. A type specimen was collected in 1965 by researchers from the University of Cambridge and kept in the herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. This was the only known specimen until the species was rediscovered by Marcos Salas from Leymebamba, Peru, and identified by Carlos Martel at the University of Ulm, Germany.

Telipogon jucusbambae in the Kew herbarium
Telipogon jucusbambae herbarium specimen collected in 1965 and held at the herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

What is its conservation status? The authors recommend classifying the species as endangered, having found populations in five localities.

What does it look like?T jucusbambae has dark violet flowers, and its lip (front lower petal) contains a black callus-like structure. The plants grow to around 35cm in height and are epiphytic.

Telipogon jucusbambae appearance. A a T jucusbambae plant with an open flower (right branch) and unopened buds (left branch); B a T jucusbambae flower, showing its dark violet petals; C a closeup of the lip of the flower, which is a black callus-like structure; and D an expanded view of the column, which contains the reproductive organs. Image from Check List.

Epiphytic? Some plants, including many orchids and bromeliads, grow on other plants (such as trees) and gather their nutrients and water from the humid air around them and from rain and debris on their host plant. Such plants are known as epiphytes.

Telipogon jucusbambae growing epiphytically on a tree in a northern Peruvian cloud forest (A) and a closeup view of its flowers (B). Image from Check List.

What kind of habitat does it like? It grows on trees in humid cloud forests around 2800-3300m above sea level.

What pollinates the flowers The flowers are pollinated by male tachina flies. Other members of the genus are known to mimic female flies so that male flies attempt to mate with the lip of the flower. In doing so, they collect pollen and transfer it to the next flower they attempt to ‘mate’ with. This is called sexual mimicry. It’s not clear whether this is the case in T jucusbambae.

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New plant species: Primula zhui

What is it? Primula zhui, a new species in the primrose family.

Where was it found? It’s endemic to the south of Yunnan, China’s most biodiverse province.

How did it get its name? It’s named after Professor Zhu Hua, a plant taxonomist, “for his great contribution to botanical research in tropical areas,” according to Yang Bin, one of the scientists describing the new species.

What is its conservation status? P zhui is critically endangered because of the effect of deforestation, which has fragmented its populations.

What does it look like? It’s a 12-20cm-tall perennial herb with leaves arranged as a spreading rosette. Its flowers are heterostylous, with five pale pink petals.

Drawings and photographs of Primula zhui, a new species found in Yunnan province, China. Images from the Nordic Journal of Botany.

Heterostylous? Yes. Many Primula and other species have morphs with sex organs in different positions in the flower. In pin flowers, the stigma (female organ) is at the top of the flower tube and the anthers (male organs) are further down. These positions are reversed in thrum flowers.

What kind of habitat does it like? It was found in a subtropical evergreen broadleaf forest around 1,400m above sea level, where it grows in the understory. This is the only place the species has been seen.

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