Discovering New Orchids

Kew Science explains how new orchid species are discovered. Every year, scientists describe hundreds of additional orchid species. These discoveries emerge from plant specimens preserved in scientific institutions, and expeditions to unexplored jungles. Little-explored tropical rainforests abound in Southeast Asia, New Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippines, and many areas of the Andes. However, searching these remote regions doesn’t start with a trip to the jungle. Instead, it starts with many trips to herbaria around the world to sift through extensive collections of dried plants. These contain many unknown or misidentified specimens, which are goldmines of orchid exploration. Finding and naming these new orchid species grows more urgent every day. Destruction of tropical forests pushes many to extinction before they can even be identified.

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