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Excerpts from

VOLUME 84, NO. 2—April, May, June 2020


Orchids and Coleoptera:
An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles

Carol Siegel
14 pages, 23 photos

A flower chafer beetle with pollinaria on Eulophia parviflora.
©Steve Johnson

There are a lot of beetles. Using sheer numbers as the criterion for success, beetles are arguably one of the most successful life forms on earth. If single individuals of every plant and animal were lined up in a row, every fifth species would be a beetle. With more than 350,000 species described, beetles represent 40% of insect species and 25% of animal species on earth. Although the Creator obviously has an inordinate fondness for beetles, most orchid growers and nurserymen definitely do not. With well-developed chewing mouthparts and a pair of strong mandible jaws, beetles can devastate a nursery and lay waste to beautiful orchids in no time. However, beetles are not only orchid pests; they have, for millions of years, been pollinators of a number of orchids and have had a fascinating and beneficial association with these flowers.

In the past, beetles were held in high regard by orchid lovers, and no less a man than Charles Darwin adored beetles. Darwin had several great passions in his life, but none was stronger than his love of orchids—and beetles. His beetle collection still exists. A beetle craze was sweeping England in the 19th century as the Industrial Revolution made city people nostalgic for nature. Darwin and his cousin William Darwin Fox became obsessed with beetle collecting. At Cambridge, they discovered many rare and unusual beetle species, and their contributions were cited in James Francis Stephen’s Illustrations of British Entomology. Darwin got into a heated rivalry with another Cambridge student, amusingly called Charles “Beetles” Babington, over who would acquire a new species first. Darwin wrote in his autobiography, “No pursuit at Cambridge was followed with nearly so much eagerness or gave me such pleasure as collecting beetles.”

Darwin later recounted how, on one of his beetle adventures, he tore off some old bark from a tree and saw two rare beetles, which he grabbed with his hands. Then he saw a new one and popped the beetle in his right hand into his mouth. The beetle sprayed an acrid liquid into his mouth, and he lost all three beetles, but not his passion for collecting. While aboard the Beagle, he collected 68 different kinds of beetles!

The Incredible World of Beetles
Beetles come in all shapes and sizes. The tiny Colombian featherwing beetle is smaller than many single-celled creatures at just 0.325 mm (0.128 inches). At the other extreme, 500 times as big, is the titan beetle, a huge Brazilian longhorn that can fill a human hand and snap a pencil with its jaws. Beetles occur from the seashore to the mountain top and live in water, up trees, in soil, in ant nests, in bee burrows, in homes, and even in beaver pelts eating dead skin. Starting 240 million years ago, with an initial preference for fungi, they adeptly adapted 125 million years ago to eating flowers. Now they and their larvae eat anything from wild garden plants to pollen, algae, leaves, fruits, nuts, stems, roots, dung, carrion, stored food, other invertebrates—and each other...


Three Species of the Genus Cymbidium Found in Vietnam Cym. kanran, Cym. nanulum and Cym. omeiense
Nguyen Hoang Tuan, Nguyen Van Canh, Vuong Thanh Binh, and Olaf Gruss
7 pages, 6 photos, 3 illustrations

Cymbidium kanran from Vietnam.
©Nguyen Hoang Tuan

Cymbidium kanran

Cymbidium kanran Makino was found for the first time in Vietnam by Nguyen Hoang Tuan and Vuong Thanh Binh in 2018.

In China, the species is found in Anhui, Chongqing, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Sichuan, Southeast Xizang, Yunnan, and Zhejiang. It is also found in Taiwan, South Korea, and southern Japan...

Growing Under Lights
Robert Williams
6 pages, 12 photos

LED light carts.
© Robert Williams

I have always had a passion for plants, especially orchids. In the early 70s, I was fascinated with my grandfather’s cascading, white phalaenopsis blooming in his den. The beauty and mystery excited me, and I insisted on eating all my meals in his den, watching the plant bloom.

Growing up in northwest Ohio with a small glass greenhouse attached to my childhood home gave me my start at growing orchids. At the age of 12, I received my first cattleya, Rhyncholaeliocattleya (syn. Brassolaeliocattley) Buttercup. It lived in my collection for over 35 years until it sadly met its demise.

My passion for orchids led me to relocated to sunny central Florida. The Mecca of orchid growing climates. I started growing orchids outside in various patios and eventually in a 23’ X 12’ X 7’ foot hoop greenhouse. The greenhouse lasted for 15 years until Hurricane Irma swept through central Florida. The following year a power failure caused the exhaust fans to fail in August, killing my entire collection. I had reached my breaking point. But what was the solution? Moving indoors? But how? Simple, my wife said: “Buy a light cart and grow them inside.”...

Phragmipedium cabrejosii Damian, M. Díaz & Pupulin
A new species from Peru
Olaf Gruss
4 pages, 4 photos
, 1 illustration

Phragmipedium cabrejosii, the flower. Frontal, ¾, and lateral views.
©Alexander Damian Patrizaca

On November 11, 2019, the online journal Phytotaxa 423 (4): 259-265 published the description of a new species of the genus Phragmipedium from Peru by authors Alexander Damian Parizaca, Melissa Díaz-Morales, and Franco Pupulin.

The new species was named after Juan Martin Cabrejos Meza, a recognized grower of Peruvian phragmipediums, who first noticed that the species herein described could represent an undescribed taxon.

The species proposed in the article is based on a single specimen grown in the living collections of Centro de Jardineria Manrique in Lima, Peru, where it was deposited by officers of the Servicio Nacional Forestal y de Fauna Silvestre (National Forestry and Wildlife Service of Peru, or SERFOR by its Spanish acronym) after an intervention resulted in the confiscation of a number of illegally harvested orchid plants. The original habitat of the plant has been tracked to the Peruvian department of Junin, without any additional information...


Ghosts, Swamp Angels, and Gators
Nicholas Larghi
4 pages, 5 photos

The Gaudy Sphinx (Eumorpha labruscae), visiting the Ghost orchid.
©Nicholas Larghi

America’s ghost orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii) is one of the rarest in North America and perhaps the most familiar from popular culture. It has been popularized by books such as “The Orchid Thief “and can be famously seen on the sides of U-haul trucks roaming the country, representing the state of Florida. This enchanting orchid is a leafless epiphyte that commonly grows on pop ash (Fraxinus caroliniana), pond apple (Annona glabra), and swamp cypress (Taxodium distichum) trees due to the presence of a mycorrhizal fungus.

Ghost orchids are found in South Florida, Cuba, and the Bahamas. They are targets of poaching and victims of habitat destruction and climate change, so these flowers are forever under threat. Based on personal experience, I can tell you these orchids grow in very inhospitable environments riddled with mosquitoes, alligators, and the occasional bear or panther; the swamps of South Florida are unforgiving!...

Orchids of Chile: Terrestrials from the End of the World
Jaime Espejo and Patricio Novoa
9 pages, 15 photos

Chloraea bletioides
©Jose Luis Inostroza

Orchids in Chile? Few people outside Chile know that we have close to eighty orchid species, with an extremely large number of endemic orchids. Most literature about Chilean orchids is either outdated or in Spanish, so it is time to inform a wider public about the beauties Chile has to offer.

Chile is located on the southwestern coast of South American. Its territories comprise part of South America, Antarctica, and Polynesia—Easter Island and the Juan Fernández Islands. From north to south, the country measures 4,300 km (2,670 miles). The geography and climate in Chile allow for a wide range of vegetation and ecosystems which results in finding Orchids in different habitats.

This article is based on the most recent information of the Orchidaceae in Correa’s Bibliography (1969), Van Nieuwenhuizen (1985, unpublished), Novoa et al. (2006, 2008, 2015) and Chemisquy (2010)...

Orchids and Birds
5 pages, 15 photos

Galahs, the pink and grey cockatoo.
©Angus Emmott

Mormodes ignea 'Dark Bird'
©Fred Clarke

While looking for orchids in the wild, you can’t help but become enchanted with the incredible birds. Orchid hunting, bird watching—what could be better? Perhaps finding orchids that look like birds?...