While orchids are known as some of the most beautiful flowers in the world, scientists have discovered a new species of orchid that does not live up to its family’s reputation. In fact, scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew (RGB Kew) are calling it the “ugliest in the world.”
Discovered in a national park in Madagascar, the plant—Gastrodia agnicellus—features 11mm flowers that are described as “brown, fleshy and grotesque.” It’s also likely that the orchid is pollinated by flies. The scientists say that the orchid remains underground in the humid forest most of the time, emerging only to flower and that it has a “noticeable musk rose-like scent.”
The ugly orchid is part of a list of 156 new plants and fungi discovered by the RGB Kew scientists and their collaborators in 2020.
Some of the other notable discoveries include a strange dwarf shrub with scaly leaves that grows in the extremely hot natural salt pans in Namibia. According to a DNA analysis of the plant, it belongs in part to the cabbage order but represents an entirely new family of plants. A discovery like this is extremely rare nowadays in the world of botany.
Meanwhile, in the high Andes of Peru, botanists found a new type of morning glory plant, which has sweet purple tubers that local people eat.
Image source: Rick Burian