Prasophyllum morganii was first collected from a single population in Victoria, Australia, in 1929, but has not been collected since 1933.
Prasophyllum morganii, also known as the Cobungra leek orchid or the mignonette leek orchid, is a species of orchid endemic to a small area in Victoria.
The species was described in 1930 as a small terrestrial herb that produces a single leaf 12-20 cm in length and a single green to reddish flowering stem 20-25 cm high with 50-80 densely crowded non-resupinate flowers.
The only recorded population of Prasophyllum morganii was discovered in 1929 on private land near Cobungra, Victoria, and consisted of fewer than 15 plants. No plants have been seen since 1933, despite extensive surveys by orchid enthusiasts.
The species is considered extinct under the state of Victoria’s Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and the Threatened Species Scientific Committee Advice.
In 2000, a similar looking orchid was described from Kosciuszko National Park, New South Wales, and named Prasophyllum retroflexum, commonly known as the Kiandra leek orchid.
However, according to the new study, Prasophyllum retroflexum is in fact Prasophyllum morganii.
“The findings will improve efforts to conserve this species into the future,” said study senior author Dr. Noushka Reiter, senior research scientist at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria.
“It was a pleasant surprise to learn that Prasophyllum morganii is still in existence, however, it is still endangered, and we need to protect it.”
“Good taxonomy, which is the accurate description of plants and animals, strengthens the conservation of rare and threatened plants such as these,” she added.
“When we better understand orchid species, their characteristics, distribution and ecology, we can improve our ability to conserve them.”
In the study, the researchers analyzed original type specimens of Prasophyllum morganii and 33 herbarium and field collected specimens to arrive at the result.
“This work would not have been possible without specimens stored in the State Botanical Collection at the National Herbarium of Victoria,” said study first author Dr. Bronwyn Ayre, a researcher in the Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution at La Trobe University and Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria.
“It was amazing to be able to compare flowers collected over 90 years ago, to ones we just collected ourselves.”
The results were published in the journal Phytotaxa.
Bronwyn M. Ayre et al. 2021. The Kiandra leek orchid is the previously presumed extinct mignonette leek orchid (Orchidaceae; Orchidoideae): evidence from morphological comparisons. Phytotaxa 528 (2); doi: 10.11646/phytotaxa.528.2.1
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