A new ground orchid has been named after Museum staff Mary Ann Cajano by a group of researchers from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand and the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation.

In a correspondence published in Phytotaxa (http://dx.doi.org/10.11646/phytotaxa.266.1.9), Pieter B. Pelser, Kim John S. Doble, Peter O'Byrne, Paul Ormerod and Julie F. Barcelona announced their discovery of a new species, Gastrodia cajanoae Barcelona & Pelser, which their group has documented in 2012, 2015 and 2016.

The orchid was observed in Mt. Apo Natural Park, Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park, Northern Negros Natural Park, and in Mt. Province. According to the researchers, Gastrodia cajanoae grows among leaf litter in tropical rainforest at 550–1400m.

Being holomycotrophic, G. cajanoae is leafless and derive its nutrition solely or mainly from mycorrhizal fungi.

Previously, two species of Gastrodia are thus far known in the Philippines: G. javanica and G. verrucosa which was described by Charles Ludwig de Blume in the 1800s.

The new species has been assessed as Least Concern based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature as it seems widespread in the Philipines and found in three protected areas. But although it has been found in several areas in the country, it has not been noticed by botanists in the past.

"It might have escaped discovery thus far, due to its small size, lack of leaves and white flowers," Pelser reported.

Named in honour of Ms. Mary Ann O. Cajano of the Botanical Herbarium whom the Pelsers consider as a great friend and colleague. Cajano fell gravely ill in November 2016 and died last 08 December.

"Ana passed away in the morning of the discovery of this new species in Negros Occidental," Pelser wrote in his correspondence.

Image credits: Nickrent, D.L., Costea, M., Barcelona, J.F., Pelser, P.B. & Nixon, K. (2006 onwards) PhytoImages. Available from: http://www.phytoimages.siu.edu]

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