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.