It is considered the queen of flowers: the orchid. Up to 25,000 different species are known worldwide. Now researchers in Japan have discovered a new "breathtaking" species with its actually extensively researched flora.
Because Kobe University's Kenji Suetsugu and his team initially found them on the Pacific island of Hachijō-jima, administratively part of Tokyo, they gave the orchid the name "Spiranthes hachijoensis". The researchers were all the more surprised that the new species grows in completely inconspicuous surroundings such as parks and even on balconies.
With their pink petals, they resemble artistic "glass works", the scientists describe their discovery in the "Journal of Plant Research". The new species belongs to the genus Spiranthes, the best known in Japan and prized for centuries.
The hairless specimens were initially overlooked
For a long time, researchers believed that Spiranthes on the Japanese main island of Honshu was a single species: "Spiranthes australis". However, during extensive field research focused on Japanese Spiranthes specimens, Suetsugu encountered several populations of an unknown Spiranthes taxon with hairless flower stalks.
The unknown taxon often grows alongside Spiranthes australis, but blooms about a month earlier, it said. Since Spiranthes australis is characterized by a hairy flower stalk, the hairless specimens could simply have been overlooked.
The fact that such a new species has been found in Japan, with its intensively researched flora, and that it grows in ordinary parks, gardens and on balconies, shows that one does not have to travel to remote tropical rainforests to make such discoveries.