New Species of Orchids Discovered by Selby Gardens Staff & Collaborators

In preparation for a series of publications on the pleurothallid genera of Brazil, twenty-four new species have been discovered by Selby Gardens botanist Antonio Toscano de Brito and collaborator Carlyle Luer of the Missouri Botanical Garden. The new speciest are described and illustrated in Harvard Papers in Botany. Two new species, Acianthera klingelfusii and Anathallis johnsonii, are described for Argentina, the former also occurs in Brazil, while the other 22 species are exclusively Brazilian in distribution.  The new species are: Anathallis crassapex, A. dantasii, A. gutfreundii A. paula, A. pilipetala, A. seidelii, A. velvetina, Pabstiella acrogenia, P. analoga, P. capijumensis, P. decurva, P. discors, P. freyi, P. gossameri, P. lacerticeps, P. melior, P. nymphalis, P. osculator, P. quasi, P. sansonii, P. savioi, and Specklinia erecta. Eleven new combinations were also proposed in the Brazilian Pleurothallidinae: Pabstiella bicolor, P. colorata, P. diffusiflora, P. dracula, P. ochracea, P. pantherina, P. punctata, P. purpurea, P. seriata, P. viridula, and Specklinia barbosae.

This work was done as part of the Selby Gardens' project Pleurothallid Orchids of Brazil: Inventory, Classification, and Conservation.  The main goals of the project are to produce an authoritative monograph of the Brazilian Pleurothallid orchid genera and species, to help establish the boundaries between the genera, and to help document the distribution of rare species in order to better conserve them. In collaboration with local institutions in southeastern Brazil, Dr. Toscano de Brito conducted a field expedition to the Atlantic Rain Forest during 2011 when he collected specimens for morphological and molecular studies. He embarks on another expedition on June 2012.

“Pleurothallids” are a group of approximately 4000 species of small epiphytic orchids found in predominantly montane regions of the New World tropics. Sometimes called “jewels of the rain forest” because of their beautiful and colorful flowers, approximately 600 species are found in the threatened Atlantic Rain Forest or Mata Atlântica, of which less than 6% of original cover remains.

The project is part of an ongoing multidisciplinary study, which involves collaboration of Brazilian and American research institutes. Until recently it has been funded by the Swiss Orchid Foundation at the University of Basel, and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin America Studies, Harvard University, and the Universidade Federal do Paraná. Field work is funded by the National Geographic Society and lab work by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The project is currently being undertaken at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in collaboration with Dr. Carlyle A. Luer, senior curator of the Missouri Botanical Garden and the leading authority on this orchid group.