Epidendrum ilense

Lindsay again writes today’s entry:

Another thank-you to Eric in SF for contributing today’s photo and helping continue our series on conservation success stories (original image | Botany Photo of the Day Flickr Pool). Much appreciated!

Epidendrum ilense is an epiphytic orchid, endemic to the Montanas de Ila in Ecuador, a range of hills on the western side of the Andes (in Pichincha Province). It was discovered in 1976 by Dr. Calaway Dodson. This striking orchid reaches 30 cm in height. Inflorescences are borne both apically and laterally, and can occur throughout the year

Added to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 1997, this species has never had a conservation status other than endangered. Upon returning to the site of initial discovery after six months had passed, Dodson found that the area had been completely deforested and the known remaining wild individuals destroyed. Dodson’s initial collections of this species were cloned via meristem tissue at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, as initial attempts to self-pollinate the plants were unsuccessful. Researchers began working under the assumption that the species may be self-sterile and preserved tissue culture. It was one of the first species to be propagated successfully at the Eric Young Micropropagation Centre at Marie Selby. Viable seed was eventually produced, though, and crosses were made to increase the genetic diversity. Seeds and / or seedlings were subsequently distributed to botanical gardens and scientific institutions worldwide. They were also sent to every orchid grower willing to donate $100 to either the American Orchid Society or the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, and individuals of this species are now widely distributed among collections. Some plants have been introduced to the Rio Palenque Reserve in Ecuador, not far from the Montanas de Ila. It is hoped that they will become established and supplement the recently-discovered second (small) wild population of this species.

Epidendrum ilense

14 responses to “Epidendrum ilense”

  1. elizabeth a airhart

    i have spent many happy hours at the gardens
    marie selby gardens are just lovely
    i wish my pictures were as fine as erics
    saveing beauty is just a blessing
    i really am delighted to see this fine
    picture and write up i live not far way
    from sarasota bon bon daniel eric and lindsay

  2. annie Morgan

    What a wonderfully inspiring story.

  3. Eric in SF

    Annie – I knew as soon as I saw the first entry for January that this would be MY first submission for conservation success stories. It really is inspiring and the orchid itself is just stunning.
    I’m polling all my plant nerd friends for more conservation stories.
    Daniel/Lindsay – this plant is in a private collection in Pacifica, CA, for the blog posting header.

  4. Quin

    hopeful, hopeful – thank you all!

  5. Justine M

    Wow! So the world depicted in Avatar (with so much efflorescence) actually exists on earth? Umm, I mean, actually once existed? Excited and saddened by this beautiful flower. Thanks for sharing it…

  6. Eric in SF

    Justine – if you’ve not visited a tropical rainforest, you’re in for an amazing treat. They even glow, albeit much less than depicted in Avatar.
    Costa Rica, Panama, and Malaysian Borneo are three of the most accessible rainforest destinations on the planet.
    If you’ve not seen David Attenborough’s Planet Earth, run to your nearest video store! Episode 8 is devoted to tropical rainforests and the beauty depicted will make you cry.

  7. Eric in SF

    I had to give a mention to an excellent grassroots organization, the Orchid Conservation Alliance:
    They are dedicated to raising money to purchase threatened habitat, primarily for orchids, but conservation is conservation.
    Their current goals are:
    * Map the distribution of Ecuador’s most threatened orchid species to more effectively target the development of new reserves
    * Secure clear titles for parcels of land so that they can be incorporated into the Rio Zuñac reserve being developed by the Ecominga Foundation
    * Develop improved educational infrastructure for reserves associated with the Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation
    * Develop a new orchid conservation biology field station in the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest near Rio de Janeiro
    One benefit of the vast economic differences between the developed and developing world is that you don’t need what we in the developed world thinks is a lot of money to be really effective, so small donations from individuals have a lot of conservation power. The OCA is a 501(c)3.

  8. Mary Ann, in Toronto

    Regarding tropical rainforests, as mentioned by Eric in SF…
    Just got the “Planet Earth” series on DVD, and look forward to seeing Episode 8.
    You’re right, Eric, the beauty makes you cry.
    The most beautiful of such places I’ve seen was Taman Negara National Park in Malaysia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taman_Negara_National_Park), about 20 years ago. Back then, there were no canopy walkways or the like — just mountains covered with virgin rainforest. First, up a river by canoe, then a long slippery trek into the forest; stayed overnight in a rustic open hut on high stilts, went on a night walk in the forest. An incredible experience. The leaves on the forest floor glowed with fluorescent fungi/mold. As dusk fell, the sounds steadily grew louder and louder and louder, and more varied — chirps and cries of all timbres, hoots, whistles, calls… from insects, lizards, monkeys, who knows what else. It was almost overwhelming. Visually and aurally, incredibly beautiful. Huge trees with buttress roots, great clumps of bamboo, vines winding everywhere… a gorgeous flourishing abundance of plant life.
    Truly, paradise on earth. That was the thought I had then: This is paradise.
    And in so many instances, such environments are paradises lost.
    So it makes you cry on two counts.

  9. Sheila

    What a stunning pic.
    A really uplifting write up. A really lucky find. Wonderful that it is now saved,with so many expert orchid enthusiasts around the world now growing it.
    So very sad that the natural environment where it was found is disappearing so very quickly.
    Thank you Eric and Lindsay

  10. sue

    Thanks, once again, for the wonderful photos.
    This one almost looks like it’s made of shaved ice!

  11. elizabeth a airhart

    the icun red list will have a species
    a day for 365 days
    ARKive is takeing part david attenborough
    has a fine viedo of introduction
    on the page the viedos even come
    with sound my news letter came today
    i am enjoying the comments a video
    of a blue throated macaw with sound
    will be as close as i will ever get
    to mary anns rain forest

  12. Daniel Mosquin

    Elizabeth, I’ve added the IUCN’s Species of the Day linking image at the bottom of all BPotD entries (right below the Post a Comment section).

  13. Earl Blackstock

    Simply wonderful. Thank you Eric:Thank you Daniel.

  14. Marc Hachadourian

    One of the few great examples of orchid conservation through cultivation. Fortunately this species has been rediscovered in the wild in Ecuador. It is widely established in cultivation with many plants being grown from seed from the original plants introduced by Selby. It is one of my favorite orchid species. What is not mentioned is that the clusters of flowers dangle from long pendant inflorescences from the tips of the canes and are produced successively for years from the same inflorescence. A link to the full plant (http://media.photobucket.com/image/epidendrum%20ilense/niekh/epi_ilense_plant.jpg)

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