Plantwatch: the world’s tiniest orchids | Plants

The smallest orchid flower in the world is a hotly contested title. In the cool cloudy rainforests on mountain peaks in Guatemala, the orchid flowers of Lepanthes oscarrodrigoi are just 0.5mm across. The plant grows on the twigs of bushes and is so minute it is extremely difficult to see, even when it’s flowering.

But in 2015, an equally minuscule orchid flower, Campylocentrum insulare, was found in Brazil and also measured 0.5mm. This tiny bloom was mistaken for a fungus until it was examined under a microscope.

Before that, the orchid Platystele jungermannioides was thought to be the smallest orchid flower, with a bloom 2mm across and so delicate that its petals are just one cell thick and nearly transparent. It was found hidden among the roots of a much larger orchid in a mountainside cloud forest in Ecuador, an area full of tiny orchid species, a sort of botanical Land of Lilliput.

These miniature orchids all need humid cloud forests where they are often shrouded in mist, fog and rain, and where the delicate little orchids have evolved flowers so fragile they would collapse within minutes in a less humid environment.

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Jorge Oliveira

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