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Thread: Carnivorous orchid?

  1. #1

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    For interest:
    The following message was posted on an orchid forum. Replies suggested the plant was not in cultivation and had never properly been tested for carnivory, but it certainly sounds fascinating.

    I know there is one carnivorous orchid growing in the Tepui formations in southwestern Venezuela. It was published in the Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 76: 962. in 1989.... the monotypic genus is called Aracamunia Carnevali & I.Ram?rez 1989 (because of the name of the Tepui where it was found), and the species is called Aracamunia liesneri Carnevali & I.Ram?rez 1989.

    It was discovered in 16 October 1987, and the Herbaria can be found at the Missouri Botannical Garden.

    A November issue of Orchids (don`t know the year) published an article named ""This native of Venezuela may be the first-described carnivorous orchid". The article says "The presence of one or two peculiar liguliform (tongue-shaped), glandular structures protruding from the base of each leaf...suggest Aracamunia may be the first insectivorous orchid", and that the structures are "compatible with flypaper insect traps".

    For those who have some mapping systems (like Google Earth) an check the coordinates at: 01.26N 65.47W

    It is thought to be carnivorous because "of the glands discovered at the base of its leaves". The altitude was 1550 m. an was found "on moss covered streambank in almost closed forest. Flowers white"

  2. #2

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    I always wondered if any further investigations or collections were made regarding this orchid. This species was thought to be extinct and was rediscovered in 1987. I came across mention of it from Steyermark's Flora of the Venezuelan Guayana VII. It was discussed on the CP listserve November 1998 and Dr. Jan Schlauer noted at that time:

    " Glandular structures protruding from the base of leaves can have a fairly wide range of functions but they have so far never been discussed in connection with carnivory. The mere fact that such structures are present is of course no sufficient proof of carnivory.
    No known CP with flypaper insect traps does produce these from glandular structures protruding from the leaf base, apart from the fact that none of them is a monocot (i.e. they have a quite fundamentally different leaf anatomy). So I cannot really see what should be "compatible" between the orchid and known CPs"

    Since that time carnivory has been discovered in monocots in the Bromelliad family, but not associated with the "flypaper" type trap.

    Apparently, the material available was preserved in alcohol so glandular/enzyme studies were not possible. I don't think there have been additional collections or studies since that time. Considering the rarity of the species this is likely all for the best IMO.
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