Rare jewel orchid shining in secret

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 November, 2011, 12:00am


A rare jewel is shining on the slopes of Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong's highest mountain, but its exact location is being kept secret to protect it from prying eyes and fingers.

It's not a gemstone but a flower - the jewel orchid - identified in Hong Kong for the first time.

The plant with small white flowers and glistening leaves was previously only seen in Yunnan province, India, Thailand and Malaysia.

It was found late last year by Dr Stephan Gale, who works at the Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, and confirmed as a new species for Hong Kong by the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department in August.

'It's called the jewel orchid because the leaves are patterned and reflective of light and when you find it in the forest they are like shining jewels,' Gale said yesterday.

Only one plant of the species was found and for conservation purposes it has been left in its natural habitat.

The white flowers are a few millimetres in diameter and the entire plant measures just 10cm.

There are 127 orchid species in Hong Kong, eight of them unique to the area.

The smuggling of wild orchids is an issue, especially before Lunar New Year, with the wild slipper orchid being among the most popular.

'Orchids actually live longer if they are grown in a nursery, so there is really no need to take them from the wild,' Gale said.