A new species of orchid, Gastrodia Pushparaga, has been discovered in a fragmented forest in Walankanda, Sri Lanka, as part of an ongoing project to connect two forest areas through a land corridor. The plant has a distinctive yellow and red-coloured flower, but unlike other similar orchids in the area, it has no leaves. It is categorised as a vulnerable species due to its dense leaf litter habitat and the impacts of climate change on the wet zone rainforest.
Gastrodia pushparaga was named after the precious yellow sapphire gemstone, pushparaga, commonly found in gem pits in Ratnapura, Sabaragamuwa province, where the orchid was first discovered.
This is the third Gastrodia species to be identified in Sri Lanka, and all are endemic to the country. The orchid’s flowering season is from March to April, while fruiting occurs from April to June.
The discovery underscores the importance of protecting and restoring fragmented forest areas to preserve biodiversity, as well as the potential for new species discoveries in such areas.