Botanists Discover 'Remarkable' Night-flowering Orchid
A night-flowering orchid, the first of its kind known to science, has been described by a team of botanists. Experts say the "remarkable" species is the only orchid known to consistently flower at night, but why it has adopted this behaviour remains a mystery.
The plant was discovered by a Dutch
researcher during an expedition to
The specimen was discovered by
co-author Ed de Vogel during a field trip in a region of lowland rainforest on
the Pacific island. Its unique flowering behaviour only came to light after the
specimen was taken back to the
The specimen has been identified as belonging to the Bulbophyllum genus, which, with about 2,000 species, is the largest group in the orchid family. While there are a number of orchids that do attract night-time pollinators, B. nocturnum is the first known species that exclusively flowers at night.
Mr Schuiteman said it still remained a mystery why the plant had developed such behaviour. "We think related species are pollinated by tiny flies that think they are visiting fungi," he explained. "The flowers mimic fungi, that's what the details of the flowers look like they do. "The flies are looking for somewhere to lay eggs, and it is most probably [a species] that forages at night." He added: "The orchid probably has a smell, not detectable by humans, to attract insects from a distance - and when they are nearby, the shape and physical aspects of the flower probably play a role too.
However, time may be against them as
the location in western
He said the logging activity was a
double-edged sword because
He called for areas to be left untouched: "It is the government that gives permits to log a particular area, so we should be asking them to protect areas and not issue permits for everything."
22 November 2011 Last updated at 00:15 GMT
By Mark Kinver and Victoria Gill Science reporters, BBC News and Nature