"The diversity of orchids is best seen in the tropics, where, unfortunately, habitat is being destroyed very fast," she said. "As a result, we are rapidly losing the diversity of orchid species. Although there are many orchid species unnamed in nature, it is actually quite difficult to determine for sure that an orchid is unnamed. They are difficult to find and difficult to tell apart. Orchid species are the raw materials for hybrids, and there is a lot to discover about how these species evolved and became such a successful group. Orchid research will only thrive if efforts to conserve tropical rainforest are put in place."
The Orchid Family contains the largest number of plant species in the world. They are the most collected group of plants by hobbyists. Close to 30,000 known species exist worldwide; many remain undiscovered. Panama alone has about 1,100 known orchid species. The United States has about 200 known orchid species.
Orchids are unique in that the flower's female and male reproductive parts are fused together. An interesting aspect is that orchids can easily hybridize or cross. As a result, some 300,000 orchid hybrids are man-made and commercially available to the public. Not found in nature, they only occur in laboratories and greenhouses for commercial purpose.
Currently, Lophiaris silverarum is known to grow only in central Panama. It is not known if it grows in other areas of Central America. The plant blooms only in November, the flowers lasting about a month. It is not sold in the US because it is very rare and it reproduces very slowly.
"We are in the process of propagating the species in vitro in Panama for commercial purposes," Silvera said. "My father, Gaspar Silvera, is the owner of a small orchid company in Panama that specializes in propagat
|Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala|
University of California - Riverside