New species of orchid discovered and named after Her Majesty The Gyaltsuen

Spathoglottis jetsuniae is a new and striking orchid species discovered and named in honour of Her Majesty Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck according to the National Biodiversity Centre.

The new species Spathoglottis jetsuniae, is a striking terrestrial orchid, first discovered accidently by the staff of the National Biodiversity Centre on 3rd November 2016, in the remote region of Ngangla-Kaktong of Zhemgang during the ground composition survey for other two species of orchids, namely Paphiopedilum fairrieanum  and Paphiopedilum venustum Pfitzer and tree seed exploration and collection expedition for the native Tree Seed Conservation Project.

This striking terrestrial orchid in full bloom was found growing inside the selected plot, which was at 1038 masl elevation with a soil pH of 7.1 – 7.8. Currently, the other known locations of this species are the remote villages of Martshala and Sarjung in the Samdrup Jongkhar, where this species is found growing on limestone outcrops together with P. fairrieanum.

The genus  Spathoglottis currently consists of about 50 species with some additional varieties and natural hybrids, distributed from India, Nepal, Bhutan, much of tropical and subtropical SE Asia, China, Indonesia, New Guinea, Australia and the Pacific Islands.

The Orchid Flora of Bhutan (Pearce & Cribb, 2002) lists only one species of  Spathoglottis from Bhutan, namely Spathoglottis ixioides a rather small and yellow-flowered species. Therefore, the discovery of this new and striking Spathoglottis is a welcome addition to the increasing number of orchid and other floral species in the country as well as to the world orchid flora.

Spathoglottis jetsuniae is closely related and rather similar to Spathoglottis hardingiana  which is not recorded from the country as of now.

It is however distinguishable from S. hardingiana in having almost smooth inflorescence and pedicels as opposed to distinctly hairy inflorescence and pedicels in S. hardingiana. A purplish flower (turns white when mature) with distinctly yellow lip of Spathoglottis jetsuniae also makes it distinct from S. hardingiana which has pale mauve lip.

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