The orchid genus Pseudolepanthes (formerly Trichosalpinx subgenus Pseudolepanthes) is made up of about 11 species in Colombia and Ecuador. All the species are rare and locally endemic to very small areas, like single mountains. In this regard their distribution pattern is similar to that of the genus Teagueia, which I have discussed often on this site. Another peculiar feature of their distribution is that, just as in Teagueia, there are a few small areas where the genus has experienced an explosive local diversification, with many species growing in the same place. The genus is mainly Colombian, and is very rare in Ecuador. Today marks the publication of the first species ever found in northwest Ecuador, discovered by our collaborators Marco Monteros and Luis Baquero (Universidad de las Americas) in our Dracula Reserve.
The species name honors Bihua Chen, a devoted orchid lover, as part of Rainforest Trust’s “Legacy Species” program. We thank her for supporting Rainforest Trust’s conservation programs!
At the moment, the species is known from only a single small population. The population is inside our reserve, but it is also inside a mining concession given by the government. In Ecuador the subsoil rights are separate from the surface rights, so the government can sell these rights without the consent of the surface owner. Because of this, the authors of the new species proposed to have it listed as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. As we’ve noted before, we and many other groups are fighting to keep mining interests out of protected natural areas, and the courts so far have agreed with us. This species is one more indicator of the biological importance and uniqueness of our Dracula Reserve.
Lou Jost, Fundacion EcoMinga