A common sight in flower shops since 2013, the “Big Pink” was, until recently, believed to be the hybrid of two known species of orchids. A new research, conducted by a team of Dutch and Australian scientists, has revealed that, although it belongs to the same family, the plant is actually an entirely new, wild species of orchid, going by the name of Dendrochilum hampelii.
Earlier, Big Pink was thought to be a man-made hybrid of two established orchid species. While conducting specialized DNA analyses of the plant, however, the researchers learnt that not only is it a separate, previously-unknown species, but it shows no evidence of being an artificial hybrid whatsoever. Before reaching such a conclusion, the team had to closely examine a segment of its noncoding DNA inherited from both parents as well as two genes coming only from the mother plant.
The absence of any kind of crossover suggested that the plant is an entirely new orchid species, belonging to the genus Dendrochilum. The findings of the research was recently published in the PhytoKeys journal. Speaking about the discovery, the team, comprised of scientists from Australia and Netherlands-based Leiden University and HAN University of Applied Sciences, said:
We formally describe Big Pink as a new species under the name Dendrochilum hampelii. Morphologically, it is most similar to Dendrochilum propinquum, but it differs in a number of characters… Of the two cultivated individuals available for our study, one was of unrecorded provenance. The other allegedly originated from the Philippines.
Found primarily in the wild, in the southern island of Mindanao, this variety of the Big Pink is an epiphyte, basically a plant whose roots are embedded in trunks and branches of other trees. Growing at altitudes of around 1,200 m above the sea level, its flowers are pale yellow in color, unlike the pinkish-salmon hued ones of the cultivated plants. According to the researchers, the species should be designated as Data Deficient in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.