A previously unknown species of orchid, the world’s smallest, has been discovered inside the Cerro Candelaria Reserve by our partner, Fundación EcoMinga, in the Andes Mountains of central Ecuador. The reserve, established by EcoMinga thanks to the support of the Rainforest Trust, protects 5,221 acres of wet cloud forest and páramo (natural high Andean grasslands) on the Amazonian slope of the Andes.
The Executive Director of Fundación EcoMinga, Dr. Lou Jost, discovered the new species among the roots of a larger orchid within the boundaries of the reserve. This tiny orchid’s flower is just 2.1 millimeters or 5/64 inch across, and its petals are only one cell thick! It is a member of the genus Platystele, which is made up mainly of miniature plants.
The Cerro Candelaria Reserve encompasses a large tract of virgin forest–stretching from the Sangay National Park towards the Amazon River Basin. It shelters a number of rare orchids, including an orchid genus found no where else on earth.
Dr Jost, one of the world’s leading orchid hunters, noted, “It’s a very exciting feeling to find a new species. People think everything has been discovered but there’s much more to be discovered.”
To date, 16 new species of orchid have been discovered in this reserve, as well as a new species of frog and a new species of tree that will be named in honor of Sir David Attenborough. Cerro Candelaria is also home to many threatened animal and bird species including the the Mountain Tapir, Spectacled Bear, Ocelot, and the White-rimmed Brush-Finch.
We thank our donors for their support in protecting this and many other threatened and biologically rich habitats like it. Without your help, none of this would be possible.