World’s Smallest Orchid

A new discovery from a jungle high in the Andes wins the title for the world’s smallest orchid. Noted American botanist Lou Jost has found a new species of Platystele whose flowers are just over 1/16 inch (2.1 mm) wide. The flowers are so small that the petals are only one cell thick, and are translucent. Another species of Platystele, which is a Masdevallia relative, held the previous record.

Dr. Jost works for Ecuador’s EcoMinga Foundation, a non-profit conservation group dedicated to preserving Ecuador’s astonishing biodiversity, much of which is still unknown to modern science. He stated that “It’s a very exciting feeling to find a new species. People think everything has been discovered, but there’s much more to be discovered.”

He found the new orchid growing among another orchid’s roots. He had collected the larger orchid several months earlier, but didn’t see the miniature one until it bloomed.

Explore posts in the same categories: Conservation, In the News, Mini Orchids

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8 Comments on “World’s Smallest Orchid”

  1. Fred Campbell Says:

    Kristianstad, Sweden, 5th December 2009.
    I must challenge this statement. If it refers to the world’s smallest orchid flower then there are 4 possibly 5 European native orchids that are good competitors for the title, namely: Musk Orchid – Herminium monorchis, Lesser Twayblade – Listera Cordata.
    Bog Orchid – Malaxis/Hammarbya paludosa, White Adder’s Mouth – Microstylis/Malaxis monophyllus and possibly Fen Orchid – Liparis loeselii. All five are native here in Sweden.
    Fred Campbell

  2. Marc Says:

    Hi Fred. I agree that this preliminary news has some gaps in it, but please consider that this is a brand new discovery. I’m sorry if I didn’t make it clear that this is the smallest orchid plant, not necessarily the smallest flower. In fact, besides the European orchids you listed, my own Oberonia has much smaller flowers. Because there’s a good photo of the flower, its size was commented upon also. However, this discovery has not been confirmed scientifically, and the orchid doesn’t even have a full name yet. That process can take several months.

  3. temperance Says:

    Thanks for posting this — it’s a fascinating discovery. I wonder what insect acts as its pollinator?

  4. Marc Says:

    Hi Temperance. That’s another good question that may not have an answer yet. I believe that some other Platysteles are pollinated by gnats, and they certainly would be the right size.

  5. AboutOrchids » Blog Archive » Trichosalpinx Says:

    […] mini orchids […]

  6. Rita Davis Says:

    You should have a picture

  7. Keith Says:

    You made some good points there.

  8. HG Says:

    cool post