Foto/Photo: Cássio Van den Berg
Adamantinia miltonioides
The Discovery of Orchids
An interview with Dr. Phillip Cribb



ON: Dr. Phillip Cribb, the subject of your keynote lecture in Dijon concerns the discovery of orchid species. We are always astonished with the high number of species still discovered. How could it be possible?
PC: The tropical forests where most orchids grow are being rapidly depleted. Travel is also easier. As new roads provide access to new areas, so new species are discovered. This suggests that many orchids are rather restricted in their ranges or habitats. The epiphytic nature of many species also led to species being missed during surveys, even by specialists.

ON: You said that news species can reach 500 a year, although the rate is 280. Between them, which is the number of new genera?
PC: The average number of new species described each year over the past 20 years is 280 but the range is from 180 to nearly 500. Some 10 or so new genera are also established each year, some genuinely new, others splits off large genera.

ON: Most of them are endemic species?
PC: Many are, others are cryptic species, not recognised before but lumped into more broadly defined species.

ON: In general, they are plants with small flowers or also showy flowers?
PC: Obviously, the showier species are better known but showy novelties are described every year, particularly in the Andes.
The new Bahian genus Adamantinia(*) is, by any standards, showy.

ON: In what region, the most part of those new species are found?
PC:Andean South America tops the list, followed by Central America, SE Asia, and Madagascar.

ON: Among those new species, hhere are some which are already known under another nomenclature?
PC: No, I am talking only about new species, there are many new names as well, the result of species being reclassified in new genera.

ON: Which are the number of orchid species and genera accepted nowadays? Who has carried on this study and where it has been published?
PC: The number of new species and genera can be found in the Monocot Checklist on the Kew website (web address is in my article). This work has been compiles by Rafael Govaerts at Kew. The current number of species is just under 25,000 in some 900 genera.

ON: Could you say that the region situated in the northern Andes of South America (Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela) with their 6437 species is the most rich region in world?
PC: Yes.

ON: In your lecture you mentioned the work done by Frodin (2004) and you gave some examples of the number of species. You said that Bulbophyllum has 1806 species. In your opinion, this genus should be divided? Do you agree that Cirrhopetalum is a section inside it or should be considered as another genus?
PC: Currently, Cirrhopetalum is included in Bulbophyllum. Barbara Gravendeel (Rijksherbarium, Leiden) and her team are undertaking extensive DNA studies on Bulbophyllum and its allies. When that is published we should have a better idea of the generic delimitation in the subtribe.

ON: Do you like to add something?
PC: The new classification of the orchids by Pridgeon et al. is being published in six volumes by Oxford University Press. Three volumes have been published, volume 4 is in press and vols. 5 and 6 are in preparation for completion in 2007.


ON: Thank you, Phillip Cribb.

(*) The author is talking about the new genus described by Van den Berg & C. N. Gonçalves and published in Orchid Digest having as the species type Adamantinia miltonioides.

Photo by Cássio Van den Berg

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