Saturday, December 4, 2010

An extremely rare photo of a Triphora orchid from Puerto Rico

The photo was taken by Dr. Thomas White in the Sierra de Luquillo

A friend of mine Dr. Thomas White was hiking in the depths of one of the largest patches of primeval forest left in the island of Puerto Rico when he saw this flower. He took this photo and went on to do his work searching for rare endangered birds. It turns out to be a tropical Tripora. Photos of Triphora blooming in PR are unheard of as far as I am concerned. My botanists friends in the island are unfamiliar with this plant. It turns out that there are three species of Triphora in the island and this plant doesn't seem to quite fit any of them. Compounding the problem is the fact that reports say that one of the species has never been found with flowers. So with my friends permision I am posting the photo here to see if anyone can ID it. This photo is all we have as the plant appears to have vanished.

This plant was found by chance and the person who took the photo knew it was an orchid but didn't know how rare it is to see photos of this one. There are four species of Triphora reported from PR, trianthophora, hassleriana, surinamensis and lateralis. The specimens labeled trianthophora were reassesed as lateralis. However since lateralis has never been found in PR with flowers this ID is to a certain extent tentative. But the unusual disjunct range extension for trianthophora from Florida to PR, to quote Ackermann, may mean that it is not trianthophora.

Note:  It may be trianthophora after all.  The area where this plant grows was severely damaged by hurricane Maria.  It was an area with very old growth trees.  Hopefully the plant survived.

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