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Sunday January 21, 2007

Orchid found in Camerons likely a new species


CAMERON HIGHLANDS: Two environmentalists may have discovered an entirely new species of orchid, deep in the jungles of the Ruil mountains near Jasar Valley here. 

Embi Abdullah, 59, and N. Madi, 52, were trekking in the jungles in the middle of last year when they found what they thought was a common species of orchid growing on the bark of a fallen tree. 

“The plant was not flowering and looked like an ordinary orchid. We picked it up thinking we’d try to salvage it by replanting it ourselves,” said Madi. 

The wild orchid enthusiasts, formerly members of the Regional Environmental Awareness Cameron Highlands Society, were stunned when the plant began to flower last week. 

Ruil excitement: Embi holding up the orchid species he and fellow environmentalist Madi found at the Ruil mountains in Cameron Highlands for closer scrutiny.
Embi, who has studied orchids for more than 15 years, said it sprouted 14 flowers from a stalk growing straight out from the plant’s rhizome. Each flower has a circumference of a 20 sen coin. 

“It looked like nothing we had ever seen before. The flowers were small, yellowish green with deep purplish brown spots and slope vertically downwards,” said Embi. 

After much research, he believes the plant closely resembles a type of wild orchid called the monomeria barbata, which was first discovered some 200 years ago in Nepal. 

“I found that the barbata is rare and can sometimes be found in parts of Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam and northeastern India. There are no records of the flower ever being found in Malaysia,” said Embi, who confirmed this after checking with several sources all over the country. 

“But if it is the same one found in Nepal, it is of an entirely new genus from the orchids found in Malaysia. 

He said that although the monomeria barbata best resembled the flower they found, the two blooms may not be of the same species of barbata

“It may be a variety of the monomeria. If this is true, we will probably name it after the mountain, Ruil, and have it registered at the Kew Gardens in London,” said Embi.  

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