《TAIPEI TIMES》 Group aims to revive native orchids
/ Staff Writer, with CNA
A tropical plant conservation group is pushing an ambitious program to save Taiwan’s indigenous orchids by reviving moth orchids in the forests where they originated.
The “Bringing Moth Orchids Back Home” program, which started two years ago, aims to have every moth orchid species flourish at their native breeding sites, said Chen Chun-ming （陳俊銘）, a senior collection manager at the Dr Cecilia Koo Botanic Conservation Center in Pingtung County.
Moth orchids in Taiwan, as in many nations, have gradually disappeared from the wild because they have been “mercilessly picked” for their beauty, Chen said.
For example, the indigenous species Phalaenopsis equestris only breeds in small numbers on Lesser Orchid Island （小蘭嶼）, an islet southeast of Orchid Island （Lanyu, 蘭嶼）, Chen said.
“It is in dire need to be saved from extinction,” he said.
Under the program, researchers not only search for more moth orchids at their original breeding sites, but also look for them in orchid gardens throughout Taiwan in hopes of finding specimens picked from the wild, Chen said.
The center plays a key role in the program.
Since it was established in 2007, the center has collected 33,689 species of plants, creating what it has described as the world’s richest living plant conservation collection.
It includes more than 9,000 orchid species, including those of the genus Phalaenopsis, which is commonly known as moth orchids, the center said.
Chen said there are two moth orchids native to Taiwan: Phalaenopsis aphrodite subspecies formosana, which have white flowers, and P equestris, which have pink or red flowers.
P aphrodite grows in broad-leaved forests at altitudes of 100m to 400m, from the Hengchun Peninsula （恆春半島） in southern Taiwan to Taitung County and its outlying Lanyu Township in the east.
The moth orchid has been an important source for the development of novelty species in Taiwan’s orchid industry, Chen said.
He said that orchids with large white flowers, commonly sold in markets, are a result of cross-pollination.
Since the Japanese colonial era, from 1895 to 1945, P aphrodite have frequently been featured in international competitions, making Taiwan famous as a “kingdom of orchids,” he said.
However, a program to save the plants was not possible until the center improved a verification technique that allowed researchers to recognize subtle differences among groups of the same species, Chen said.
He said that his dream is that eventually Taiwan’s native moth orchids can “reproduce on their own.”
However, to achieve this goal, the plants have to multiply in large numbers so that they can meet market demand and still thrive in the wild, Chen said.