Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dendrobium ravanii: the story and progress

Dendrobium ravanii is a small-sized epiphytic Dendrobium species endemic to Mindoro Island in the Philippines. It is only found in the North of the Island in the mountains in heavy shade. It was described as early as 2008 by Jim Cootes and named after Ravan Schneider who found the type specimens and who lives on the Island. According to the original description by Cootes, the numerous flowers are about 3cm wide and 3.4cm long and arise from a short pendulous inforescence.

In March 2011 I received some dry seeds from a friend of mine from Germany who had just returned from Mindoro Island. He had been given Dendrobium species seeds from a private collection on the Island. He did not recall the species of the Dendrobium seeds that he had sent me unfortunately but at that stage I wasn't really concerned and was happy to attempt to germinate them anyway for my collection. The seeds took 42 days to germinate but the percentage of success was high. The protocorms were very small and took a further few months to differentiate into tiny seedlings. My curiosity grew with the seedlings... I wondered what on Earth they could be. None of my other little Dendrobium species I had sown looked quite like this species in flask although it was classically a Dendrobium given the shape of the developing canes and the leaves. These seedlings were much more delicate, much smaller with very long thin delicate roots. My curiosity finally got the better of me and I began to research which species it could possibly be. I began to hunt for a list of species that grows on Mindoro Island and during this search I came accross the description of D. ravanii. The other species listed that grow on the Island I had in flask already and none of them looked quite like my mystery species.

I contacted Jim Cootes in Australia and explained my curiosity to him and asked if he knew of anyone who had done any molecular work on the species or if he knew of a published or unpublished neucleotide sequence for D. ravanii which I could use for a comparison. Unfortunately he explained that only he and Ravan Schneider had the species in cultivation and that he was not aware of any molecular work that was being done on the species. Jim was kind enough to offer to contact Ravan on Mindoro to ask him if he recalled his meeting with my friend on the Island and whether he could confirm the species of the Dendrobium seeds he had given him. A few days later I received an email to inform me that Ravan recalled meeting my friend and that the species given to him was most likely D. ravanii. So, I need to wait now to flower the species in the next few years to come to confirm its identity but Jim suggests that this won't take long because D. ravanii flowers from small plants.

Protocorms on 21 August 2011
March 2012
Currently I have numerous flasks of developing seedlings that are growing well. I re-plated another mother flask of them last night into their final flasks for growing out before hardening them off later this year hopefully. I intend to mount these onto small rafts and will then nurture them until they are large enough to flower and to give me a confirmation of the species once they do. I feel most fortunate that I am one of the only people in the world who potentially have this species in cultivation.