Scientific Expedition Team of College of Life Sciences Discovered Endangered Plant
Scientific Expedition Team of College of Life Sciences Discovered Endangered Plant

Early in May, the College of Life Sciences of SCUN and the National Wildlife Conservation Station of Hubei Province jointly carried out a special investigation on orchids in Hubei Province. During this period, two populations of endangered plants of Cypripedium fargesii Franch, which were in the flowering period, were discovered in a provincial natural protection zone in Xianfeng County, Enshi Prefecture.

Cypripedium fargesii Franch Photo by Lan Deqing

Cypripedium fargesii Franch belongs to cypripedium of the orchid family, which is as rare and important as giant pandas. In 1894, it was named Cypripedium fargesii Franch by a French botanist Francie. Its type specimen was produced in Chengkou, Sichuan Province. It is an endemic species in China and a national second-class protected plant. Its flowers and leaves have peculiar morphology and high ornamental value. At present, its natural population has been seriously damaged, and it is difficult to find traces of it in the wild. As a result, it has been rated as vulnerable by the Red List of Chinese Species and endangered (EN) by the Red List of Endangered Species of IUCN.

Xianfeng County of Hubei Province, where Cypripedium fargesii Franch was discovered 

Photo by Lan Deqing

The scarcity of Cypripedium fargesii Franch is not only due to its strict requirements on living environment, but also the particularity of its pollination methods. The team headed by Li Dezhu, a researcher from Chinese Academy of Sciences, shows that it adopts a deceptive pollination method, and its effective pollinator is mainly Agathomyia sp. Cypripedium fargesii Franch is highly dependent on Agathomyia sp., so this special pollination system makes this species prone to extinction.

This field expedition is a part of the work of the Natural Science and Technology Resource Library of Wild Plants in Wuling Mountain Area of Hubei Province, a provincial science and technology project of SCUN, and one of the continuing work achievements after SCUN completed the special major project of Scientific Investigation of Biodiversity in Wuling Mountain Area, a basic project of the Ministry of Science and Technology. Thanks to this scientific expedition, Cypripedium fargesii Franch has been reported in Hubei Province for the first time over the past 100 years. The discovery of its distribution over karst terrain provides an important basis for local environmental protection and the development of ecological society, and lays a solid foundation for further research of plants of the orchid family in the future.