Orchid gives the secrets of his success

Zhong-Jian Liu and Li-Jun Chen

The orchid is known for its beauty and once changed hands for huge sums.

Now, scientists are gaining a glimpse of how the plant is appreciated for its beauty colonized almost every habitat on Earth.

A team in China has unpicked the genetic code of an orchid which grows wild in the mountains of south-eastern China.

The orchid in question, from the sub-family, Apostasiodea spinoff of modern species, millions of years.

The researchers led by the Orchid Conservation and Research Center of Shenzhen sequenced the genome of the orchid, and compared it with the most modern of the species.

Zhong-Jian Liu and Li-Jun Chen

The data, published in the journal Nature, “provides a frame of reference for the study of orchid evolution” and suggests a number of distinctive features found only in orchids have played a key role “in the immense radiation of the group,” they say.

The orchid is one of the largest families of flowering plants. Many are cultivated for their beautiful flowers, while others are of economic importance, such as the source of food aroma, vanilla.

Commenting on the study, Dr Trevor Dines, of the wild plant conservation charity, Flora, said that the orchids have a host of unique features that make them special and instantly recognizable.

“If you’re looking at a big, blousy Moth orchid from the supermarket or a small rare Bog orchid, a distance of Snowdonia hillside, the flowers have the same underlying plan,” he said.

“This research reveals that the elements of this plan appeared right at the very beginning of the evolution of the orchid family, and may well have contributed to their spectacular evolution in the 26,500-28,000 species that we know today.”

Zhong-Jian Liu and Li-Jun Chen

Some of the unique features of orchids include masses of pollen, known as pollonia, exceptionally lightweight seeds and the ability to grow on other plants, using them for support.

All of these features are found in the 50 or more species of wild orchids indigenous to the united KINGDOM, the lady’s-slipper orchid Bog orchid.

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