December 10, 2023

Japanese researchers have uncovered a brand-new species of orchid with exquisite, glass-like flowers that was hiding in plain sight.

Although being found in parks and gardens throughout Japan, it took scientists at Kobe University ten years to determine that the plant, identified as “Spiranthes hachijoensis,” belonged to a distinct species.

“It was a surprise to discover a new species of Spiranthes, which is so common that you can see it in parks, gardens and among potted plants,” lead researcher Kenji Suetsugu told AFP on Thursday.

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Some of the samples were “from potted plants and gardens”, including ones kept at a high school in Japan’s central Gifu region, the phytology professor said.

“From its curious look and dainty blooms that resemble glasswork, this flower has long been loved by people,” the university said in a press release.

Even the oldest collection of poetry to be published in Japan, the eighth-century “Manyoshu,” made reference to the plant and its spiraling flowers.

The Journal of Plant Research published an article last week announcing the discovery of a new variety of Spiranthes, also referred to as “ladies’ tresses.” As a result of the abundance of samples discovered on Tokyo’s Hachijojima island, it was given the name “hachijoensis.”

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