VIENTIANE, June 8 (Xinhua) -- The discovery of a new orchid species in Laos, Paphiopedilum papilio-laoticus, has been documented in the most recent publication of Orchideen Journal by a specialist working in the herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, UK.
The paper was contributed to the journal by André Schuiteman from the herbarium and co-authored by Vientiane resident Mr Sulivong Luangaphay and Shunsuke Iio.
According to local daily Vientiane Times on Friday, Sulivong Luangaphay, a long-time plant lover and orchid aficionado, told the local media that a new orchid was seen in a street market in Lao capital Vientiane after being taken from a nearby protected area in May.
Coincidentally, the orchid was brought to Sulivong's attention on National Arbour Day on June 1.
The name given to the flower comes from the Latin papilio, meaning butterfly, and laoticus, from Laos, referring both to the large dorsal sepal that resembles a butterfly wing and the origin of the species.
From all the other species in the Paphiopedilum section it differs in the much larger flowers, the white staminode, and in the unique colours of the dorsal sepal: white flushed light purple with a yellow-green blotch at the base and with prominent purple spots that have a lighter centre, like the eye spots on the wings of some butterflies.
At present, 13 or 14 species of Paphiopedilum are known to exist in Laos, according to the report.
Considering that most species of Paphiopedilum occur on limestone, often with highly restricted distribution areas, and that Laos has extensive and poorly studied limestone karst landscapes, it is to be expected that more endemic species of Paphiopedilum will be discovered as the more inaccessible parts of Laos are explored.
Unfortunately, commercial plant collectors rather than scientists may be the first to come across such new species, and these may end up in heaps of plants sold at local markets, said the report.
"This showy and undoubtedly very rare species will hopefully be propagated from seed soon, and we urge orchid amateurs not to buy any plants of this species that could be wild-collected. In a few years' time, it should become widely available as legally propagated plants do not pose a threat to their continued existence in the wild," the paper noted.