New non-photosynthesising orchid discovered in Japan

A new species of orchid has been discovered by Japanese scientists on the subtropical islands of Amami-Oshima and Tokunoshima. The new species, called Gastrodia amamiana, resembles the Gastrodia uraiensis but boasts subtle differences in the structure of the petals and the stem.

It is a plant that “self-fertilizes” forming the bud without opening the flowers, one of those non-photosynthesising plants that grow on the soil of forests in environments that are not usually visited by flying pollinators such as butterflies and bees. According to the researchers, this plant has evolved so that it no longer opens its flowers because the same opening action exhausts too many resources. Schemes similar at the evolutionary level can be noted among other things also in other mycoheterotrophic plants, that is, plants that no longer do photosynthesis and that have evolved to be parasites feeding on mushrooms.

Among other things, the same island of Amami-Oshima has seen this year the discovery of two new species of mycoherotrophic plants, the Lecanorchis moritae amamiana and the Didymoplexis siamensis. However, the deforestation in progress in these areas is making the trees thinner and the drier soil could have a negative impact on the fungi and therefore also on this type of plant.