Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Rare Orchid (Monomeria barbata ) Found in Malaysia

IPOH: The mysterious orchid picked up by two environmentalists deep in the jungles of Cameron Highlands has turned out to be the rare Monomeria barbata – a first for Malaysia.

Embi Abdullah, 59, who stumbled across the orchid with his friend while trekking in the Ruil mountains last year, said the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) and the French Orchid Society had recently confirmed the genus and species.

Exciting find: Embi examining the orchid, which has been confirmed as ‘Monomeria barbata’.
The Monomeria barbata, first discovered 200 years ago in Nepal and the Eastern Himalayas, grew only in cool weather on treetops some 1,600m to 2,000m above sea level, he said.

“This is an exciting breakthrough for Malaysia because this genus of orchid – the Monomeria – has never been found here before.

“The plant has been recorded in Nepal, north-eastern India, Vietnam and Myanmar, but never in Malaysia,” he added.

“This canopy orchid is also rarely found in the wild even in its countries of origin because of ongoing development now,” said Embi, who has studied orchids for over 15 years.

According to a scientist from FRIM, Embi and his friend N. Madi were not the first to discover the orchid as another Malaysian had brought it back for identification about two or three years ago.

However, this has not damped Embi's excitement as he has been asked by the French Orchid Society to submit a paper describing the Malaysian variant of the flower.

Although the flower is now widely available among orchid enthusiasts in Europe, the Monomeria barbata found in the Cameron Highlands might be unique to Malaysia alone.

“There is a difference between our plant and those in Europe. The colour on the surface of the lip is yellow on theirs, while ours is brown.

“In Europe, the plant is also described as small and miniature but ours is medium-sized,” said Embi.

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