Plants & Us: Calanthe masuca var. sinensis – Sowing Seeds of Success

Posted Date: Wednesday 11 September 2019    

Calanthe masuca var. sinensis, a species that has struggled to get by in the wild of its own accord, is one of ten native orchids shortlisted for ex situ propagation at KFBG. The species, also known as the pink calanthe, has suffered as a result of habitat destruction and illegal collection – its handsome leaves and beautiful pink and purple flowers making it attractive to hobby growers. Only a handful of populations are known to persist in remote pockets of well protected, mature, mossy forest, typically close to streams.

A few ripe seed capsules were collected from these remaining plants, with permission from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, in 2016. The tiny seeds were then carefully removed from the capsules in KFBG’s micropropagation laboratory and sown onto an agar-based medium in sterile flasks. Once germinated, the seeds developed into seedlings, and these have since grown into plants large enough to be deflasked and transferred to our nurseries.

Today, we have a healthy population of C. masuca var. sinensis flourishing in our nursery. With the establishment of this species in cultivation, our gardeners have planted many plants out in semi-natural environments in various locations in our garden for experimental reintroduction and educational purposes. It is observed that individuals are doing very well, and this year many came into bloom in late summer. Based on this success, our orchid team is hopeful that C. masuca var. sinensis from our nursey may soon be planted back into the wild, thereby bolstering its chances of recovery in nature. A similar approach is being taken for the other nine priority orchid species.