Fascination of Plants Day winner: Ponerorchis wolongensis

Submitted by editor on 5 June 2022.

We have drawn the winner for our most fascinating plant of May! Ponerorchis wolongensis is a new orchid species from China, described by the authors Peng et al. in our February issue. Read on for a description of their journey to find this fascinating plant and some interesting photos from their fieldwork.

Orchids (Orchidaceae), as one of the largest families of angiosperms, is the 'flagship' taxon for plant conservation. All orchids worldwide are listed in the CITES Appendix to restrict trade. China, one of the countries with most orchid species and important participants in orchid conservation, is developing a conservation strategy for orchids as part of the China Plant Conservation Strategy. In order to map out the conservation status of orchids in various regions and guide orchid conservation standardized, precisely, and synergetic, the China Wild Plant Conservation Association (CWPA) commissioned the Orchid Professional Committee and the National Center for the Conservation of Orchid Germplasm Resources to conduct a survey on the status of orchid conservation in China with the consent of the Department of Wildlife Conservation of the State Forestry and Grassland Administration.

In July 2020, our team were conducting a survey on the orchids in the Wolong National Nature Reserve (WNNR) together with staffs of the WNNR. A pure white flowering orchid species of genus Ponerorchis was found on a steep rock ledge. Morphological comparison and phylogenetical analysis revealed that the orchid species is assigned to an unnamed species. Then, it is described as a new species.

The artist started her career in 2009 when she began her studies under supervision of Linhan Liu, a third-generation plants scientific paint artist of China (Fig. 2).

The new species is named after the WNNR where it was first found.