Japan Researchers Find New Orchid Species That Looks Like Glass

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A team of researchers has discovered a new species of orchid in Japan, challenging the notion that all plant species in the region have been extensively studied and documented. The newly discovered orchid, named Spiranthes hachijoensis, boasts rosy pink petals that resemble glasswork and can be found in common places such as lawns and parks.

Discovery of a New Species

Spiranthes is the most famous orchid species in Japan, and mentions of it can be found in the oldest surviving anthology of Japanese poetry. For a long time it was thought to be the only species in mainland Japan.
Professor Suetsugu Kenji and his colleagues discovered the new orchid species during extensive field surveys focused on Japanese Spiranthes specimens. They found hairless flower stems that grow alongside the Spiranthes australis and blooms a month earlier, leading to reproductive isolation between the two taxa. The hairless individuals may represent an overlooked species, leading to a comprehensive ten-year study to determine precisely how the plants differed.
After integrating results from DNA analysis, morphology, field observations, and reproductive biology, the team discovered that the “common” Spiranthes is divided into two species with minimal morphological differentiation. The new orchid species was named after Hachijo Island in Tokyo Prefecture, where the flower was first spotted.

Importance of Persistent Exploration

The discovery of a new flowering plant species in Japan is considered an extraordinary event since the flora of the region has been extensively researched. However, the new species reported here can be found growing in commonplace environments such as parks, lawns, private gardens, and balconies.

The research was conducted by a multi-institutional team of researchers. An article was published online in the Journal of Plant Research on March 17, 2023.
The discovery of a new orchid species in Japan highlights the importance of persistent exploration, even in seemingly unremarkable settings, and the need for more studies to uncover new plant species.