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#Natureology Species of the Day – Montserrat orchid (Epidendrum montserratense)

December 30, 2012

#Natureology Species of the Day – Montserrat orchid (Epidendrum montserratense)

Montserrat orchid occurs only on the volcanic island of Montserrat in the Caribbean, where it is one of two surviving endemic plant species, like other orchids the Montserrat orchid (Epidendrum montserratense) is best known for its beautiful flowers. Conservationists are trying to save this Critically Endangered Orchid from extinction caused by invasive species, habitat loss, grazing (goats) and volcanic activity.

Montserrat orchid is most commonly found growing on old or dead trees, particularly mango trees (Mangifera indica), in forested areas that have been disturbed by storms or human activities, such as agriculture. The small, vivid yellow flowers are clustered in inflorescences and are borne on elongated, swollen stems called ‘pseudobulbs’, which store water so that the plant can survive through the dry season.

Montserrat orchid occurs only on the volcanic island of Montserrat in the Caribbean. It once grew in the Soufriere Hills, but its habitat there was destroyed by volcanic eruptions between 1995 and 1997, and it is now restricted to the forest of the Centre Hills.

Montserrat orchid is listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered primarily due to loss and fragmentation of habitat; human development and volcanic activity are the main threats this species. There is also loss of this orchid due to uncontrolled grazing (mostly goats) and invasive species such as the purple allamanda (Cryptostegia madagascariensis), are destroying the fragile native flora of the island.

Conservationists have successfully germinated and stored Montserrat orchid seeds in Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank to ensure that the orchid does not go extinct. Future conservation measures must involve ensuring the long term survival of the species in the wild populations from possible threats of any volcanic activity or impending endangerment caused by invasive species and habitat fragmentation.

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