*Two new orchid species, found in a wildlife reserve in Ecuador funded by World Land Trust (WLT), have been described and illustrated to further highlight the scientific importance of protecting this habitat *
Teagueia puroana, named after WLT corporate supporter Puro. Photo © Lou Jost.
Two new species of orchid, from the /Teagueia /genus, have been discovered in the eastern Andes of Ecuador. These endemics of the upper Rio Pastaza watershed were named /T.barbeliana/ and /T.puroana, /and have been described and illustrated in a recently published paper by Lou Jost and Anderson Shepard. They were found in the Cerro Candelaria area of the Rio Pastaza, where 14 other species of /Teagueia /survive. *The two recently discovered orchids are among the rarest of the /Teagueia /species *in Cerro Candelaria, with only a few plants of each discovered during extensive fieldwork. The/ *T.puroana */*grows on the low branches and trunks of isolated, small stunted trees*. It differs in appearance from its relatives by its petals and sepals that taper to a long point. While the /T.barbeliana, /which was also found on a mountain top 18km west of Cerro Candelaria, has broad round flowers and grows in moss on open ground. Before 2000, only six species of /Teagueia /were known to exist; three species found in Colombia and three in Ecuador. However, through the work of botanist Lou Jost (of FundaciÃ³n EcoMinga) and his students on these and neighbouring remote mountains in the eastern Andes,* a total of 28 species have been discovered*, including the /T.barbeliana/ and /T.puroana/.
Teagueia barbeliana, named after WLT council member Albertino Abela’s mother Barbel. Photo © Lou Jost.
Lou has been working for years in the challenging terrain of the Pastaza watershed, trying to map the distributions of different orchids to learn about the factors that control orchid distributions and cause speciation. Lou said:
“These orchids of *the /Teagueia/ genus constitute one of the earth’s most remarkable local plant evolutionary radiations*, with more species in a much smaller area than better-know recently-evolved plant radiations such as Darwin’s /Scalesia /Arn. (Asteraceae) on the Galapagos Islands.” He added: “The extraordinary scientific importance of this unique evolutionary radiation makes these mountains a global conservation priority.”
Molecular work by Mark Whitten, Senior Biological Scientist at the Florida Museum of Natural History, and his team at the University of Florida, *may soon be able to assign a time-scale on this /Teagueia /radiation*, which appears to be very young. The recently discovered /Teagueia/ species have been* named in recognition of supporters who contributed significantly to the conservation of the orchid’s habitat;* /T.puroana /after World Land Trust corporate supporter Puro Coffee and /T.barbeliana/in honour of World Land Trust’s former Chairman and now council member, Albertino Abela, who dedicated it to his mother, Barbel. These recent orchid discoveries further highlight the scientific importance of protecting this habitat. With large tracts of the region still unexplored, it is vital that we expand the area under protection to safeguard the Andes’ evolutionary secrets.
-Read more about the Teagueia and other orchids of Cerro Candelaria:-
· Visit the Cerro Candelaria reserve page · Read about the evolutionary radiation of the genus Teagueia in this area. · World’s smallest orchid discovered in World Land Trust supported reserve (Ecuador)