Platystele peruviana, which occurs in the Peruvian Department of Pasco, is the smallest species of orchid found in this South American country.
Platystele was first described in 1910 by the German taxonomist and botanist Friedrich Richard Rudolf Schlechter.
It occurs exclusively in the Neotropics, distributed from Southern Mexico to Bolivia, including the Antilles.
To date, there are 140 species reported for this genus; nearly 10 species are known from Peru.
Platystele is known for being among the smallest species in the orchid family Orchidaceae.
In fact, Platystele jungermannioides is considered the smallest orchid in the world, with a flower size of 2.5 mm and a complete plant size up to 2.5 cm long.
The newly-described species, Platystele peruviana, can be considered, at this moment, the smallest orchid in Peru.
“Nine Peruvian species of Platystele are bigger than 5 cm from the base,” said Dr. Federico Rizo Patrón, a researcher with the Centro Neotropical de Entrenamiento en Humedales.
“Only Platystele psix has a plant bigger than 2 cm from the base, and Platystele peruviana is only 1.4 cm from the base.”
Platystele peruviana is found only in Oxapampa, which is part of the Oxapampa Ashaninka Yanesha Biosphere Reserve.
“The type specimen was observed during a field trip through a creek at the Gramazú area in Oxapampa, Pasco, Peru. The ecosystem where it was found is a montane forest,” Dr. Rizo Patrón explained.
“The plant was located on a small branch with a diameter of 3 cm; fully covered by moss, about 1 m from the ground.”
“The area had low light due to the very close proximity to the forest floor and was very humid due to the nearby presence of a creek.”
“Temperature range varies between 4 and 28 degrees Celsius. Other orchids from the Pleurothallinidae group were observed in this location, as well.”
In Peru, all orchids are considered threatened because of commercial issues and are included in the CITES convention.
“Every aspect of orchid conservation is managed by the central office of the Peruvian Forestry Service in Lima, not by regional or local offices,” Dr. Rizo Patrón said.
“Unfortunately, in Peru, there is no data about population status and that makes it very difficult at the moment to make accurate assumptions about their conservation status.”
A paper describing the discovery was published on September 14, 2022 in the journal Phytotaxa.
Federico L. Rizo Patrón. 2022. Platystele peruviana sp nov. (Orchidaceae), the smallest orchid from Peru. Phytotaxa 564 (1); doi: 10.11646/phytotaxa.564.1.9
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