Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Orchid Science Update: Studying biodiversity of two Floridian orchid species

Encyclia tampensis
Photo Credit: (Wikimedia commons image) Andrea Westmoreland (Flickr gallery)

This reports comes out of the Million Orchid Project, an orchid reintroduction program in south Florida. The authors of the study completed a genetic characterization of two Floridian orchid species in order to help inform conservation efforts.

Encyclia tampensis, pictured above, is an epiphytic orchid native to south Florida, Cuba and the Bahamas, where it grows in cypress swamps and tropical hammocks.  Florida law regulates collection of wild-grown E. tampensis due to threat of commercial exploitation.

Cyrtopodium punctatum
Photo Credit: (Wikimedia commons image) Everglades National Park (Flickr gallery)
Cyrtopodium punctatum, or Cowhorn orchid, is another epiphytic orchid species from Florida. This orchid used to be widespread, but due to intense harvesting is now categorized as "Near Threatened".

Low genetic diversity can result when the numbers of a given species dwindle. This can hamper preservation efforts, as the species becomes more susceptible to diseases and the problems of inbreeding.  In order to asses the genetic diversity of E. tampensis and C. punctatum, this study collected genetic samples from orchids in the wild and from cultivation, and identified 10 microsattelite markers in each species that showed variation between individual orchids. 

Future conservation efforts and breeding programs will be able to use these microsattelite markers to make sure that they are maintaining a healthy genetic diversity in the species.

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