Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Domingoa haematochila (Rchb. f.) Carabia 1943, photo from the 2013 visit
In 2012 I visited Mona Island and was able to take photos of Domingoa haematochila plants near the Sardinera camping area. Unfortunately the plants there were small and in poor shape. Also my camera died on my second day on the island and I had to use a camera loaned to me by a friend. I knew there were far larger and healthier plants in the interior of the island, but getting there is a challenging and dangerous endeavour, even for a trained biologist. Happily I was allowed to tag along a group of botanist that planned to go deep into the island interior. The botanist set a punishing fast walking pace in their hike because they wanted to get as far into the island as possible before the temperatures became dangerous. How high did the temperature climb? By 1:00 pm the bare limestone was at a toasty 136F/58C, our boots were themselves at 100F/38C. The hair at the top of the head of one of the botanist was at 103F/40C. It was some strenous walking and I spent most of the time drenched in sweat, but I managed to get some good photographs of large plants with flowers in good condition (with my new camera Yeah!).
The conditions in the limestone plateau of Mona Island are incredibly harsh for human beings but some orchids have evolved the capacity to grow and even thrive under them. However there are spots here and there on the island where the ecosystem provides for microclimates that are less extreme, it is in these spots that Domingoa grows best. However you can find plant of Domingoa in places in the island where conditions are difficult and don't allow for large plants.
This plant is very rare in cultivation locally. Mostly due to the fact that local growers prefer large flowered orchids but also due to the fact that most growers here are unfamiliar with native orchids. Given that this plant grows in a habitat the is inimical to human life, it doesn't at present faces any threat to its survival.