Two New Miniature Orchids Enrich the Scientific Legacy of Costa Rica

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    Costa Rica’s protected areas and national parks contain many natural treasures. One of those are orchids, a group of plants highly coveted for their beauty and many of which are in danger of extinction. In fact, the good news is that there are two new species of miniature orchids that researchers from the Lankester Botanical Garden (JBL), of the University of Costa Rica (UCR), found in two natural reserves and were able to study them. The result was the discovery of two species that science did not know.

    Orchids belong to the Specklinia brighamii group and are endemic to Costa Rica. These plants present a great diversity. It is common to find them in the mid to low elevations in the Caribbean basin of the center of our country. The flowers of these orchids are almost invisible, they measure less than one centimeter, so they often go unnoticed.

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    The first species was baptized with the name Specklinia tirimbina, in honor of the La Tirimbina Biological Reserve, a private conservation area that is located in Sarapiquí, where it was found. “The story of how we found Specklinia tirimbina is curious. In April 2016, Marco Cedeño, a master’s student from the School of Biology and the Lankester Botanical Garden, and Emmanuel Ley, one of the naturalists from La Tirimbina Biological Reserve, found the plant. Marco took it to JBL knowing that we are studying them and there it was cultivated. In December 2018 I found the plant flowering in the living collections of the Garden, and since I know this group, I knew immediately that it was an unknown species ”, narrated researcher Adam Karremans.

    The UCR and Tirimbina maintain a close relationship, since scientific research is carried out in this reserve and it functions as a living laboratory for field work by students of the Biology career of this university.

    The other species described is Specklinia barbelifera, which Karremans and Diego Bogarín found in 2012, in the Barbilla National Park, located in the Cordillera de Talamanca, at the canton of Siquirres. At that time the botanists of the JBL did not know that it was a plant of the genus Specklinia different from others.

    “Sometimes it takes time to realize that a species has no name because you have to compare it with all known species and the original documents of some are difficult to understand,” said the botanist. The name barbelifera refers to the barbitas that the species has and also refers to the name of the national park where it was discovered.

    Karremans is the principal investigator of the scientific publication on this finding in the journal Pytotaxa, together with Grettel Salguero Hernández, Diego Bogarín Chaves, Lizbeth Oses Salas and Marco Cedeño Fonseca. “These discoveries remind us of the importance of protected areas, whether public or private, since they conserve the country’s native biodiversity, even those still unknown to science,” said the researcher.

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