Thursday, March 26, 2015

Didymoplexiella ornata - the hidden orchid.

It was the onset of rainy season in November and these tiny leafless orchids were blossoming in the dark damp forest floor.   They were not easy to spot but apparently they were so abundant that once we spotted the first and had our senses trained, the rest seemed to emerge miraculously - the pale flower appearing like beacon from the sea of brown leaf litter. 


It is not an easy plant to find - not because its rare but because being leafless and unable to perform photosynthesis, the plant exists only as a subterranean tuber most of the time. One can only be certain of its whereabout when it flowers. It derived its nutrients from a network of fungal mycelia which surround and infiltrate the tuber. In turn, the fungi obtained nutrients by breaking down organic matter at the leaf litter.  This mode of parasitic relationship with the fungi is known as myco-heterotrophy.

There are 8 species in  this genus but Didymoplexiella ornata is the only species found in Malaysia and Singapore.

As you can see in the closeups, there are a couple of "spurs" flanking the column and this differentiate this genus from the closely related but more elusive Didymoplexis which is also found in this region.

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