This is extremely rare for the discovery of new plant species in Japan, a country where the flora is widely studied and documented. However, Professor SUETSUGU Kenji and his colleagues have recently discovered a stunning new species of orchid, whose rose-pink petals are strikingly similar to glassware (Fig. 1). Because it was originally spotted near Hachijo Island in Tokyo Prefecture, the new species was named Spirantes Khachijonskyi. Interestingly, it can be found in familiar environments such as lawns and parks, and even in private gardens and balconies. This research shows that other new species may be hiding in common places, eliminating the need to travel to remote rainforests to discover them.
Gen Spirantes encompasses a fascinating and wonderful variety of orchids that display many distinctive morphological characters. The flowers are usually small and white or pink, and arranged in a spiral around a central stem, hence the nickname “lady’s braids”. Spirantes it is the most famous orchid in Japan and has been revered for centuries, even appearing in Manyoshu, Japan’s oldest anthology of poetry. For a long time it was believed that Art Spirantes on the Japanese mainland are one species: Australian Spirantes. However, extensive field research focused on the Japanese Spirantes samples, Suetsugu encountered several populations of unknowns Spirantes a taxon with bare peduncles, on the Japanese mainland (Fig. 1). An unknown taxon often grows nearby S. Australian but flowers about a month earlier, resulting in reproductive isolation between the two taxa. Provided S. Australian characterized by a hairy flower stem, hairless individuals can present an overlooked appearance. So Suetsugu and his colleagues embarked on a comprehensive and multifaceted decade-long study to determine exactly what makes these plants different. The samples were collected in various locations in Japan, Taiwan, and Laos.
By combining results from DNA analysis, morphology, field observations, and reproductive biology, Suetsugu and colleagues found that this is a cryptic species that exhibits high levels of molecular divergence, albeit with minimal morphological differentiation (Fig. 2). What is “common” Spirantes actually divided into two species are likely to arouse the curiosity of the general public. The discovery of a new species of flowering plant in Japan is considered an extremely rare event, as the flora of this region has been extensively studied. However, the new species reported here can be found even in common settings such as parks and lawns. Some of the specimens used to describe this new species were collected from private gardens and balconies. This discovery of new species hidden in ordinary places highlights the need for persistent research, even in seemingly unremarkable conditions!
This study was conducted by a multi-institutional team of researchers, including Prof. Suetsugu (Graduate School of Science, Kobe University), Prof. SUYAMA Yoshihisa (Graduate School of Agricultural Sciences, Tohoku University), and Dr. Tien-Chuan Hsu (Forestry Research Institute, Taiwan). The paper was published online in the Journal of Plant Research on March 17, 2023.
“Spirantes Khachijonskyi (Orchidaceae), a new species within c S. Chinese species complex in Japan based on morphological, phylogenetic and ecological data”
Kenji Suetsugu, Shun K. Hirota, Hiroshi Hayakawa, Shohei Fujimori, Masayuki Ishibashi, Tian-Chuan Hsu, Yoshihisa Suyama
Journal of Plant Research