UC Botanical Garden has a star on its hands after scientists discovered that one of its orchids is a distinct new species.
The Haitian orchid is a low-growing plant with showy red-orange flowers, and it has been in the garden’s collection since the 1990s, bearing the name Maxillaria croceorubens. Recent DNA analysis of flower and leaf material from the orchid confirmed that the plant is, in fact, named Ornithidium donaldeedodii, after orchidologist Donald Dod, who collected the specimen in the 1980s and served, in his later years, as a research associate for the UC Herbarium.
A Protestant missionary stationed in the Caribbean who became a meticulous, self-taught orchidologist, Dod is said to have discovered more than 50 orchid species during a 17-year stay in Puerto Rico and subsequent residence in the Dominican Republic. Dod died in 2008, at 95.
“It is perhaps not hard to image that some new small organism had been overlooked,” Paul Licht, the Botanical Garden’s director, said of the discovery. “But when it’s something like an orchid, which people have lusted after for many decades, it’s almost mind boggling.”
The orchid is on display in the Orchid, Fern and Carnivorous Plant House at the Botanical Garden.
Photo: Courtesy UC Botanical Garden.