New Species of Orchid Discovered in Ecuador

by johnsmith

Scientists have described a new species of the Neotropical orchid genus Maxillaria from cloud rainforests of northern Ecuador.

Maxillaria anacatalinaportillae. Image credit: Hugo Medina.

Maxillaria anacatalinaportillae. Image credit: Hugo Medina.

The genus Maxillaria, abbreviated as Max in the horticultural trade, belongs to one of the most diverse and species-rich groups of orchids.

Depending on the applied classification, it counts from approximately 420, through 634 to 750 species.

Commonly called spider orchids, flame orchids or tiger orchids, representatives of the genus are distributed in the rainforests of Latin America from central Mexico to Bolivia, as well as in the West Indies.

Several Maxillaria species are popular, horticultural plants with large and showy flowers, often nicely fragranced.

It is not uncommon that some distinctly colored individuals are introduced to the commercial market under names of similar, more or less related species, as informal varieties or color forms, largely causing confusion.

“While investigating the diversity of Maxillaria in Ecuador, we’ve encountered plants that were commercially referred to as Maxillaria sanderiana xanthina,” said Dr. Monika Lipińska from the University of Gdańsk and her colleagues from Poland, Ecuador and Kazakhstan.

“In the course of conducted morphological and micromorphological analyses, we concluded that it is a new, separate species.”

The new species is known only from the location of Maldonado in the Ecuadorian province of Carchi.

Scientifically named Maxillaria anacatalinaportillae, it grows as an epiphyte in cloud rainforests at altitude of 1,700 m above sea level.

“According to the IUCN Red List criteria, Maxillaria anacatalinaportillae should be classified as ‘Critically Endangered,’ based on the small number of known populations and restricted area of distribution,” the researchers said.

“The province of Carchi in recent years suffered from problems caused by climate change, anthropogenic impact on the environment, and the lack of awareness of natural resources.”

“The change of land use, expansion of the agricultural frontier, population growth, or the opening of new roads are some dynamics that generate pressure on the ecosystems, compromising the ecological processes that take place in them.”

The discovery of Maxillaria anacatalinaportillae is reported in a paper in the journal PhytoKeys.


M.M. Lipińska et al. 2022. Maxillaria anacatalinaportillae (Orchidaceae, Maxillariinae), a new remarkable species from Ecuador. PhytoKeys 190: 15-33; doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.190.77918

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