Filipino-led research team discover new helmet orchid species in Palawan

Palawan helmet orchid
The species of Corybas circinatus discovered in the mountain areas of Palawan island. Photos from Rene Alfred Anton Bustamante.

A Filipino-led research team’s discovery of a new species of helmet orchid in the mountains of Palawan island in the Philippines has been published on Phytotaxa journal of Auckland, New Zealand.

The newly found species of helmet orchid, identified as Corybas circinatus, was discovered growing wild in five locations: Mt. Bahile and Mt. Bloomfield in Puerto Princesa City, Mt. Matalingahan in the town of Rizal, and in Sultan Peak and Mt. Victoria town of Narra.

The team of botanists comprised of Danilo Tandang (Philippine National Museum of Natural History), Rene Alfred Anton Bustamante (Philippine Taxonomic Initiative, Inc), Ulysses Ferreras (Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society Inc., Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center), Annalee Hadsall (Institute of Biological Sciences – University of the Philippines Los Banos), Stephanie Pym-Lyon (University of Wisconsin-Madison), and Alastair Robinson (National Herbarium of Victoria, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne) together discovered the Corybas circinatus in the research initiated by Philippine Taxonomic Initiative, Inc.

The Palawan discovery was published on May 27, 2020, by the global scientific journal Phytotaxa of New Zealand.

Normally growing among mosses and leaf litter on the forest floor, the helmet orchid endemic to ultramafic habitats on the island of Palawan is described in the journal as follows:

  • This species is distinct in bearing a small glandular protuberance at the front of its pedicel
  • 4-lobed entire labellum
  • distinctive strongly incurved dorsal sepal
  • general colouration of the floral and vegetative parts is also highly characteristic
  • general lowland to mid-montane ecology of the species is unique amongst the known Philippines Corybas

Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Inc. said that there are four known species of helmet orchid in the Philippines and the newly discovered Corybas in Palawan is the fifth addition to its kind endemic to the country. Corybas circinatus is also yet to be given a local name.

Photos of the new Corybas by RA A Bustamante

New species of flora and fauna discovered in the Philippines include the new subspecies of Hoya – also known as the shooting star – discovered by Filipino scientists in Quezon Province.

Five new marine species from the Philippine waters – Chromis gunting, Chromis hangganan, Chromis bowesi, Janolus flavoannulata and Janolus tricellarioides – have also been officially recorded by the California Academy of Sciences (Cal Academy) in 2019.

Moreover, in Iloilo island, a newly discovered mud cleaner worm species have been found to have a good environmental impact for cleaning coastal and fishpond areas as well as having potential for an economical and sustainable food source for crab and shrimp breeders and farmers.

In April this year, a new sea star species was discovered in the waters off Balut Island in Davao.

SEND CHEERS to the team of botanists and the people of Palawan for the discovery of a new helmet orchid species.

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Lorenzo Cruz believes that the power of beauty could help the Philippines to rise to the top. He is a travel and fashion enthusiast who loves to explore Filipino culture.