Chhimi Dema 

Researchers have discovered two new species of orchid, Bulbophyllum gurungianum and Bulbophyllum punakhaense.

The maroon blossoms of the orchid are small and delicate, measuring no more than four centimetres in length. The two new species were found in Rimchu and Menchuna in Punakha.

In Bhutan, 62 species of Bulbophyllum have been documented so far. Worldwide, there are 2,147 species of Bulbophyllum. 

The publication titled Two New Species of Bulbophyllum from Bhutan stated that the diversity of Bulbophyllum in the country is “poorly surveyed and documented compared to the neighbouring countries.”

Bulbophyllum gurungianum

The two new species were collected in 2006 by a lecturer from the College of Natural Resources, Dhan Bahadur Gurung, and remained unidentified in his book “An Illustrated Guide to the Orchids of Bhutan”. 

In 2022, during a botanical exploration in the different parts of Punakha, the authors Phub Gyeltshen and Kinley Rabgay spotted the same species growing on the main tree trunk of dead-standing alder tree (Alnus nepalensis D.Don) and the rotten stump of walnut tree (Juglans regia L).

The discovery of the new species was published in Lankesteriana: International Journal on Orchidology. According to Additions to Orchid Flora of Bhutan-II, a research article published in 2021, it is estimated that there are 520 orchid species in Bhutan.

The research was published jointly by a group of researchers: Phub Gyeltsen, Kinley Rabgay, Kezang Tobgay, Choki Gyeltshen, Karma Sangay, Chencho, Karma Tenzin, Phuentsho, and Pankaj Kumar.

Phub Gyeltshen said that it is important to have diverse plant ecology because it suggests a healthy and balanced ecosystem; lack of plant diversity may suggest underlying environmental problems. 

“An ecosystem is more stable and sustainable when it has a greater diversity of species and productivity,” he said.

The orchid Bulbophyllum gurungianum is named after Dhan Bahadur Gurung, and Bulbophyllum punakhaense after Punakha.

The discovery of these two new species is a welcome addition to the growing list of orchid species in Bhutan.