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  • Writer's pictureMs. Dhriti Shah

THE WORLD'S UGLIEST ORCHID - Gastrodia Agnicellus

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

By Dhriti Shah

It's not very often that a flower, yet alone an orchid, has been called ugly. “Most people think of orchids as showy, vibrant and beautiful, but Gastrodia agnicellus is quite the opposite”, said a reporter. The royal botanical gardens in Kew has named Gastrodia agnicellus, a new species of orchid discovered in 2020, as ‘the world’s ugliest orchid’. The Gastrodia agnicellus has a withered flesh-like appearance, with no leaves, a red inside and a brown outside. The plant grows from a wooly stem and has flowers only about 11 millimetres in size once it's pollinated. The orchid is dependent on fungi for nutrition and it does not have any leaves or any other photosynthetic tissues. They have a musk rose scent which grows stronger as the temperature increases.

So where is it located?

This type of orchid has only been found in The Vatovavy-Fitovinany region in the southeast of Madagascar. It stays in the shade in the forests of Madagascar, often under plant litter and humus.

Who discovered it?

A botanist at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, discovered the scruffy Gastrodia agnicellus in the sheltered undergrowth of a rainforest in Madagascar. His name was Johan Hermans. He first noticed this species of orchids on a field trip to Madagascar in December 2017. Then in September 2019, that site was revisited and then searched more thoroughly, some developments fruiting inflorescences were found.

Agnicellus means "little lamb" or "lambkin". The name "refers to the woolly covering on the rhizome, the ear-like petals and also alludes to the name of the botanical artist who brought the new species to life in her drawing."

Although it has been named as the ugliest orchid, nature is based on people's perception. Everything is beautiful in its own way. Come to look at it one might find something despicable but another person will find it alluring. Nature is like that, it is purely subjective. I do believe that even though the Gastrodia Agnicellus has been named as the ugliest orchid, it is beautiful in its own way.

Nature is truly so wonderful, dense and diverse that even though we humans have been around for millions of years, there are so many things we have yet to discover. So many beautiful species and yes, sometimes, some that are unappealing too. We should definitely keep discovering things but we should protect it too. We should discover things and learn to preserve and treasure them.

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