Orchids, Past and Future

Orchids are providing a valuable perspective on climate change. Dried flowers are kept in museums and herbaria around the globe, and include records of collection dates. A British group of scientists checked specimens up to 150 years old, and found that the Early Spider Orchid, native to southern and western Europe, has been blooming 6 days earlier for every 1.8° F (1° C) spring temperature increase. This rate corresponds to modern scientific observations in the field. Some dried flower specimens date back 250 years, and they add a considerable repository of data for scientific study. Climate change and shifting temperatures endanger orchids because of increased chances of extreme weather, and also the chance that orchids will flower out of sync with their pollinators.

While scientists are finding orchids from the past useful, they’re also planning for the future. Climate change, habitat destruction, and over-collection all endanger wild orchid species. Scientists from around the world recently met in Costa Rica to plan to freeze the orchid seeds of threatened species. As a last-ditch effort , Orchid Seed Stores for Sustainable Use (OSSSU) hopes to build seed banks around the world to prevent the complete extinction of these marvelous plants. Since orchid seeds are minuscule, they don’t even need big freezers. Seeds frozen at -4° F (-20° C) can last for decades. Some seeds can be used to replenish struggling wild populations. It’s good to know that smart people are working to keep rare orchids from disappearing forever. Future generations should be able to enjoy more than a dried or frozen Phal or Lady Slipper.

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5 Comments on “Orchids, Past and Future”

  1. Hayden Says:

    How much worse will global warming get before we really see it as our worst nightmare coming true? I’m glad orchid scientists are taking it seriously. Thanks for your articles.

  2. tams Says:

    there is just so much good info

  3. SATTZI Says:

    I like your blog,

  4. nancy Says:

    No more evidence should be necessary to prove that climate change is here and happening right now. I hope the scientists will learn from the new source of resarch to reverse climate change damage.

  5. gxz Says:

    yuck … our first snow came early this year
    i could use a little of that global warming now