"I immediately recognised the flowers as being exceptionally large for an Azorean butterfly-orchid," said Moura" and e-mailed images to Richard Bateman for confirmation that they were new to science". Data gathered subsequently in the laboratory using several analytical techniques all pointed to the discovery of a new species, and suggested that the species named Platanthera azorica in the PeerJ paper originated relatively recently by a remarkable restoration of the large-flowered morphology of its presumed mainland ancestor.
Bateman then realised that this "new" orchid had in fact been illustrated (but never correctly identified as a new species) in the first ever Flora of the islands, published in 1844, but thereafter had consistently been confused with other more frequent Azorean species. The illustrated specimen, deposited in the herbarium at Tbingen by German botanist Karl Hochstetter, was collected during his tour of six of the nine Azorean islands in 1838. However, as Hochstetter did not visit So Jorge (where P. azorica was most recently 're-discovered') it is entirely possible that the population he originally described may remain to be discovered on another Azorean island.
In the meantime, the team are anxious to obtain conservation protection for the newly-recognized and exceptionally rare orchid. "This remarkable species languished unrecognized for 173 years," commented Bateman. "It's rediscovery and recognition beautifully illustrate the value of integrating field-based and laboratory-based approaches to generate a modern monograph. This methodology both demonstrates that the species is genuine and allows us to make informed recommendations for its future conservation."
|Contact: Richard Bateman|