Filipino eye surgeon names new Philippine orchid species after UP College of Medicine

Aerides upcmae
The newly discovered “Aerides upcmae” orchid photographed with the UP Sablay ceremonial sash. Photo from Miguel David De Leon.

Filipino eye surgeon and photographer Dr. Miguel David De Leon together with the UP Medicine Class of 1995 have named a new discovery of a spectacular, rare, and “stunningly beautiful orchid species” after the University of the Philippines College of Medicine (UPCM) in UP Manila.

Dr. De Leon, field biologist and director of the Robert S. Kennedy Bird Conservancy, was the one who first photographed the previously undescribed Philippine orchid in early December 2019 while observing avian habitats in Bukidnon.

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In January 2020, De Leon announced his chosen name for the new orchid species. “Naming this spectacular new species of Aerides after the UP College of Medicine is quite fitting for Class 1995 and all of UPCM are children of our alma mater, schooled and nurtured by her not just for five academic years but for life,” Dr. Miguel David De Leon wrote in a social media post.

“Academic excellence, moral virtues and selfless service are some of the hallmarks of UPCM. Throughout history, doctors from the college have played key roles in serving our country. During peacetime and wartime—WWII and, now, COVID-19–UP doctors remain charged and ready to serve,” De Leon added.

The honor is a fitting tribute to the UPCM community which has been on the frontlines of the battle against the Covid 19 while running the UP Philippine General Hospital, a designated Covid referral center, and developing innovations such as the first Philippine-made Covid test kit and the RxBox vital signs monitoring device, among others.

De Leon’s findings were later published in the “OrchideenJournal” a year after on December 7, 2020, with the help of his co-authors Martin Motes, Jim Cootes, and Derek Cabactulan.

According to the authors, the discovery of the orchid plant endemic to Bukidnon was remarkable considering the loss of forests and habitats in the archipelago. Continuing research and fieldwork has revealed the rare and highly attractive “Aerides upcmae” as new to science.

To date, there are eleven species of “Aerides”, meaning literally “children of the air”, found across the major island groups in the Philippines. The specific epithet “upcmae” honors the University of the Philippines College of Medicine (UPCM), the alma mater of discoverer and co-author Dr. Miguel David De Leon.

“Aerides upcmae” is presently the only species in the Philippines from the “Aerides” section “Falcata Christenson”.

Aerides upcmae
Photo of Aerides upcmae by Miguel David De Leon

Dr. De Leon’s images include the rare South Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher (Ceyx mindanensis) photographed for the first time in 130 years. At the onset of the pandemic, the doctor shared colorful photos of the Philippines’ endemic wildlife to cheer up netizens amid the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus disease.

Recent discoveries of new species of Philippine flora include Mount Arayat’s new plant species discovered by UST and AUF researchers and the new seagrass species thriving as marine habitat in Boracay.

SEND CHEERS in the comments below to Filipino eye surgeon Dr. Miguel David De Leon for his discovery of a new Philippine orchid species and naming it “Aerides upcmae” to honor the UP College of Medicine.

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