- Researchers have named the new orchid species Telipogon diabolicus, referring to the orchid’s wine-red or maroon reproductive structure that resembles a devil’s head.
- The rare orchid is known from a single population of 30 orchids in southern Colombia.
- The lone population is found in a vulnerable habitat close to the main road Pasto-Mocoa, and the ongoing reconstruction of the road could push the species towards extinction, the researchers say.
In the forests of southern Colombia, scientists have discovered a new species of a reddish-violet orchid that is already on the verge of extinction.
Researchers have named the new orchid species Telipogon diabolicus, referring to the orchid’s wine-red or maroon reproductive structure that resembles a devil’s head. The orchid’s most distinctive trait, the authors write in the journal PhytoKeys, is its prominently clawed petals, a feature not observed in any other Colombian species of this genus.
Discovered by Marta Kolanowska and Dariusz Szlachetko of University of Gdansk, Poland, and Ramiro Medina Trejo of Colombia, the orchid can grow between 5.5 to 9 centimeters in height.
The rare species is known only from a single population of 30 orchids occurring on a small patch of wet montane forest on the border between departments Putumayo and Nariño in southern Colombia, according to the study. The lone population is found in a vulnerable habitat, the authors write, close to the main road Pasto-Mocoa. The ongoing reconstruction of the road could push the species towards extinction, they add.
Consequently, the researchers have classified the species as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List. However, despite the rarity of this new orchid, the researchers are hopeful that many other new species will continue to be found in Colombia.
“In the most recent catalogue of Colombian plants almost 3600 orchid species representing nearly 250 genera are included,” the authors write in the paper. “However, there is no doubt that hundreds of species occurring in this country remain undiscovered.”
- Kolanowska M, Szlachetko DL, Trejo RM (2016) Telipogon diabolicus (Orchidaceae, Oncidiinae), a new species from southern Colombia. PhytoKeys 65: 113-124. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.65.8674