The rarest orchid in Europe – ‘Platanthera Azorica’ – endemic to the Azores, was identified by a visitor this week on Faial island.
Alerted for the possibility of the existence of this rare orchid in the protected area of the Natural Reserve of Caldeira do Faial, a technical team from the Botanical Garden of Faial was called to confirm the finding.
The Regional Directorate of the Environment took note of the new finding and confirmed that fieldwork will follow to identify additional sightings on other islands of the archipelago.
Commonly known as ‘Hochstetter’s Butterfly Orchid’, the ‘Platanthera Azorica’ was rediscovered in 2013 in the central mountain range of São Jorge island, where it was then believed to be restricted to that island in the area circumscribed to Pico da Esperança.
In the Azores, there are three species of endemic orchids all belonging to the ‘Platanthera’ botanical species, namely ‘Platanthera Azorica’, ‘Platanthera Micrantha’ and ‘Platanthera Pollostantha’.
The orchids, likely originate from a single species that arrived by seed millions of years ago. Genetic testing confirms that the lineage of the species derives from Europe or North Africa.
Known locally as ‘conchelo-do-mato’, these rare species are being threatened by habitat destruction and invasive alien plants and need to be protected.
The Azores (population 250,000) is a region of Portugal composed of nine islands. The archipelago discovered by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century, became an Autonomous Region of Portugal in 1976. The government of the Autonomous Region of the Azores includes the Legislative Assembly, composed of 57 elected deputies, elected by universal suffrage for a four-year term; the Regional Government and Presidency, with parliamentary legitimacy, composed of a President, a Vice-President and seven Regional Secretaries responsible for the Regional Government executive operations. The Autonomous Region of the Azores is represented in the Council of Ministers of the Central Government by a representative appointed by the President of Portugal. According to the latest US census over 1.3 million individuals of Portuguese descent live in the United States, the majority with roots in the Azores. It is estimated that over 20,000 US citizens live in Portugal.