“Spectacular, stunningly beautiful” orchid discovered

Published December 12, 2020, 11:00 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Donna A. Apolinario, MD

The discovery of a new “spectacular, stunningly beautiful” orchid species in the Philippines was announced today, bringing new excitement to the fields of horticulture, biology, and conservation. The orchid was discovered in Bukidnon by Dr. Miguel David de Leon, a retinal surgeon and field biologist from Cagayan de Oro, and was named Aerides upcmae, after Dr. de Leon’s alma mater, the University of the Philippines College of Medicine. 

The new species was published in the Orchideen Journal by Dr. de Leon along with co-authors Martin Motes, Jim Cootes, and Derek Cabactulan. “There are more than 1,100 orchid species in the Philippines and only 11 of these are Aerides species,” according to Cabactulan, “but Aerides upcmae is the most surprising of all the Philippine Aerides. It belongs to a section that has not been found outside of its range in mainland Southeast Asia.”

Due to habitat destruction and overcollection, it is especially rare to find large and highly attractive orchid species such as Aerides upcmae in the Philippine wilderness. Orchids reflect ecological health and are considered a sensitive bioindicator because they do not tolerate change easily. 

Moreover, the value to the horticultural field of this new discovery cannot be underestimated. Cootes, a prolific author considered to be the foremost authority on Philippine orchids, is confident that “this is an attractive addition to the hybrid ventures of many orchid nurseries. Efforts should be made to ensure that Aerides upcmae is preserved as the most important species that it is.”

For Dr. de Leon, selecting a name was personally significant: “The orchid genus Aerides literally means ‘children of the air.’ Naming this new species of Aerides after the UP College of Medicine is quite fitting for my Class 1995 and all of UPCM are children of our alma mater, schooled and nurtured by her not just for five academic years but for life.

“Academic excellence, moral virtues and selfless service are some of the hallmarks of UPCM. Throughout history, doctors from the college have played key roles in serving our country. During peacetime and wartime—WWII and, now, COVID-19–UP doctors remain charged and ready to serve,” said Dr. de Leon. “It is with deep affection and gratitude that Class 1995 honors its alma mater and all of you who are UPCM with this spectacular species, Aerides upcmae.”

The UPCM Class of 1995 is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. In January, the formal launch of their homecoming year was highlighted by the dedication of two other Aerides species, Aerides turma and Aerides turma fma. anniversarius. The announcement of the discovery of Aerides upcmae was released in time for their final festivities.

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