Orchid (Cymbidium rectum)

Cymbidium rectum flower
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Orchid fact file

Orchid description

KingdomPlantae
PhylumTracheophyta
ClassLiliopsida
OrderOrchidales
FamilyOrchidaceae (1)
GenusCymbidium

This orchid is an epiphyte and has thick leathery leaves (2). The leafless flower stalk (known as a scape) is horizontal and may be up to 40 centimetres long, containing around 17 fruit-scented flowers (2). The petals are pale yellow with a central maroon coloured stripe (2). The white lip has three lobes, these are spotted with maroon and there is a single maroon spot at the tip of the central lobe (2).

Size
Length of flower stalk: up to 40 cm (2)
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Orchid biology

Cymbidium rectum flowers year-round, although there appears to be a peak in activity between September and December (2). This species has developed a symbiotic relationship with biting ants; the ants are found amongst the root system, feeding on nectar whilst at the same time protecting this plants from plant-eating insects (2).

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Orchid range

Cymbidium rectum was fist described from peninsular Malaysia in 1920 but was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in Sabah on the island of Borneo in the early 1980s (4). Although currently unknown from this site, an additional single location has since been discovered in east Kalimantan, in the Indonesian part of Borneo; this species is also widely distributed in cultivation (4).

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Orchid habitat

This orchid is an epiphyte (it uses another plant for support) that grows on small stunted trees, usually less than 6 metres tall (2). It is particularly associated with Baeckia frutescens trees, in kerangas forest and peat swamp (4).

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Orchid status

Classified as Vulnerable on the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants (3), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (4).

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Orchid threats

The area in Sabah where Cymbidium rectum was rediscovered has since been clear-felled and it is likely that this orchid is no longer found in this area (5).

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Orchid conservation

When Cymbidium rectum was rediscovered in the wild, a living plant was sent to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew and seedlings have since been cultivated and widely distributed (5). Further surveys of similar habitat in Borneo are needed to ascertain if there are any additional wild populations of this rare plants (4).

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Authentication

Authenticated (2/6/03) by Dr Phillip Cribb. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
http://www.rbgkew.org.uk

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Glossary

Epiphyte
A plant that uses another plant, typically a tree, for its physical support, but which does not draw nourishment from it.
Symbiotic relationship
Relationship in which two organisms form a close association, the term is now usually used only for associations that benefit both organisms (a mutualism).
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2003) www.redlist.org
  2. du Puy, D. & Cribb, P. (1998) The Genus Cymbidium. Christopher Helm, London.
  3. Walter, K.S. & Gillett, H.J. [eds] (1998) 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants. Compiled by the World Conservation Monitoring Center. IUCN – The World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
  4. CITES (February, 2003) www.cites.org
  5. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (January, 2003) http://www.rbgkew.org.uk/ksheets/orchid-prop.html
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Image credit

Cymbidium rectum flower  
Cymbidium rectum flower

© David Du Puy / Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Richmond
Surrey
TW9 3AB
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 332 5000
Fax: +44 (0) 208 332 5197
info@kew.org
http://www.rbgkew.org.uk

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