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'Unexpected' Orchid Found In Mexico's Deciduous Forests

Jan 14, 2016 05:02 PM EST
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A rare, elegant orchid mistaken for a close relative was recently assigned to its own species. A team of scientists, led by Dr. Carlos L. Leopardi-Verde of the Universidad de Colima, stumbled upon this exotic flower in bloom while on Mexico's Pacific slope of Oaxaca state. They marveled at its unique coloring and were interested in taking a closer look.

Following their study, researchers declared the orchid represented a new species, based on its distinct features that include shape, size and color. They have since named it epithet inopinatus, which means "unexpected," according to a news release.

One of the most distinctive features of the new plant is its yellow labellum – or lip – patterned with crimson-to-reddish brown lines. Generally speaking, this orchid lives on rocks in deciduous forests, where it grows relatively large leaves and leathery petals. Researchers say the flowers can vary greatly in color, from bronze-green with dark purple lines near the base, to pale pink and creamy-white splashed with reddish-brown spots and lines near the top.

When in full bloom, researchers say these orchids can grow between 80 and 90 centimeters tall and sprout between three and eight flowers, which open between March and July. 

The Oaxaca valley in Mexico is an area rich with biodiversity. In fact, the surrounding mountains are home to some of the most interesting species found nowhere else in the world. Finding this new orchid on only a few sites along the Pacific slope suggests there is a much greater wealth of species yet to be discovered.

Their study was recently published in the journal PhytoKeys.

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