Two new orchid species found in Yambaru forest

Kenji Suetsugu, an assistant professor at Kobe University Graduate School of Science, discovered two new species of orchids in a northern Okinawa forest. He named the new species “Yanbaru Yatsu-shiro Ran (Gastrodia nipponicoides)” and “Tsutsuzaki Yatsu-shiro Ran (Gastrodia okinawensis).”

Suetsugu made the discovery while pm a hiking trip with local orchid enthusiasts, and gave the flowers their Japanese names according to places where he found them.

Talking bout his discovery, Suetsugu said, “Plant research is a progressive field. It’s rare to find new species of plants, but the discovery shows the diversity of Yambaru forests.”

The discovery will be published on the website of the online international journal for plant taxonomy “Phyto taxa” on Apr. 7.

The two orchids are “Fungus heterotrophic” plants that, unlike normal plants, absorb carbon without photosynthesis. Instead, they absorb carbon with the help of fungi in their roots. They have no leaves, and many of their parts remain unexplained because appear only during the season when they bear flowers and seeds.

Suetsugu is well known for his visits to Yanbaru forests, and originally found the two species in 2012 when guided by 70-year-old Taduko Watanabe who is familiar with plants of Okinawa.

Gatrodia nipponicoides is 3 to 6 cm tall, and similar to “Hatuzaki Yatsu-shiro Ran (Gastrodia nipponica)” that grows in the same area, but the outward appearance of its flower is a little different.

Gastrodia Okinawensis is 10 to 17 cm tall.