A class act: Two new orchid species

Published January 18, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

Dr. Donna Apolinario-Anel

Two new orchid species from the Philippines were published by the Cootes Orchid Research Group (CORG) in the latest volume of the Orchideen Journal.


Described by researchers Miguel De Leon, Jim Cootes, Derek Cabactulan and Rey Pimentel, these findings highlight the luxuriant mega-biodiversity of the Philippines. According to CORG director Dr. De Leon, the ongoing revelation of such rare and delicate plant species—what he calls “the living jewels of the Archipelago”—is a call for greater vigilance in conservation.

Dr. De Leon is a retinal surgeon and a field biologist from Cagayan de Oro. If he is not re-attaching detached retinas and making the blind see, he is in the woods – sometimes up in a tree, sometimes flat on his belly on the forest floor, always with a camera in hand.

He chose the names for the two newly described flowers: Aeridesturma and Aeridesturmafma. anniversarius. Turma is Latin for “batch” and both are named after his colleagues, the batch 1995 from the University of the Philippines College of Medicine.

The second orchid was named specifically to commemorate their 25th anniversary this year.

He describes a distinct excitement when he photographed these new species. “I was face to face with these two beautiful orchids at about the same time my class started planning our silver anniversary celebration. I was filled with nostalgia so I had to find a meaningful way to mark the occasion.”

Alongside his provincial practice, he runs two major research groups—the Robert S. Kennedy Bird Conservancy and the Cootes Orchid Research Group.

His scientific contributions are so prolific, varied and salient that ornithologist Robert S. Kennedy cheered him on for his “success where others have failed.” In a country named as one of the “17 mega-biodiverse hotspots in the world” –areas with the world’s richest but most threatened animal and plant life—this is a crucial role.

UP College of Medicine Class of 1995 has been given a truly special gift on its silver anniversary. According to Jim Cootes, book author and the foremost authority on Philippine orchids: “To the best of my knowledge, there has never been an orchid species named after a class of students. The non-pigmented form Aeridesturmaforma anniversarius is extremely rare. It is of uttermost rarity: only one plant is known to exist.”

Meanwhile, Dr. De Leon and his colleagues have published more than 30 new species of orchids, two new species of Hoya, with more queued for publication.

For poorly-known birds and mammals, they contribute field data to science with the ultimate goal of conserving what mammologist Dr. Lawrence Heaney calls “the vanishing treasures of the Philippine rain forest.”

He has named orchids in honor of his grandfather, Dr. David De Leon, an alumnus of the UP College of Medicine Class 1936(Epicrianthesdavidii), his aunt (Dendrobium carmindae), a conservation colleague (Grastidiumginalopeziae) and two Philippine presidents (Robiquetiadutertei and Epicrianthesaquinoi), to name a few.

The two new orchid species will be presented during the Kita-Kita 2020 homecoming launch on January 20at the UP Manila Museum of a History of Ideas.