Spot Thousands of Orchid Species in Borneo

July 27, 2011
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Nature travel through Borneo’s Mount Kinabulu National Park will bring visitors face to face with thousands of different plant species, as the island hosts more than half the world's species of flowering plants. Orchids — the tall, floral species that most people only encounter at their local grocery stores or greenhouses — flourish here.

There are an estimated 3,000 species of orchid in the forests of Borneo, many of them rare and valued for their beauty and aroma. However, their desirability also poses dangers to the blooms. Economic factors such as illegal "orchid hunting," gold mining and illegal logging, as well as environmental factors such as fires, had caused many of the flower species to become endangered or extinct.

A study found that there were few records kept of the native orchid species in West Borneo, so researcher Chairani Siregar of the College of Agriculture at the University of Tanjungpura in Indonesia undertook a three-year study to locate and record the endangered orchid species there. In 10 counties and one municipal city in West Borneo, Siregar reported that he identified a total of 197 species.

At the same time, however, more species of orchid are being discovered all the time. The World Wildlife Fund reported in June that in nearby New Guinea, nearly 100 news species of orchids were discovered over the past 10 years. The orchids made up nearly half of the 218 species of plants discovered, along with 43 reptiles, 12 mammals, 580 invertebrates and 134 amphibians, the WWF reported. The organization said that these discoveries prove that the South Asian forests are some of the most biodiverse in the world, but that "unchecked human demand" may threaten the wealth of the environments.

While hiking around Mount Kinabulu with International Expeditions, visitors should keep their eyes peeled for the paphiopedilum rothschildianum, a species of orchid that is referred to as the "queen of the slipper orchids." Petals measuring nine to 12 inches with bloom clusters of two to five flowers characterize this orchid, which is extremely rare, USA Today reports. Still, if the "queen" is too elusive, visitors are sure to be charmed by the pale pink bloom clusters on the Eria Grandis orchid, an endemic orchid that is one of the most common of the 700 species that have been recorded on the mountain alone.


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