Orchid of the Week: Platystele jungermannioides

Last week I featured the tallest orchid in the world, so this week I’m going to talk about the smallest orchid in the world: Platystele jungermannioides. This little guy was discovered accidentally by American botanist Lou Jost as he was inspecting a completely separate plant from Ecuador. He found it growing among the roots of the other plant! According to an article in The Independent, this orchid is 2.1 mm wide; here’s a photo with a ruler for reference:

Photo Credit: Lou Jost

A dime is about 1 mm thick and a nickel is about twice as thick as a dime; large grains of sand can be about 2 mm in size, so this gives you a concrete sense of just how miniscule the orchid really is. Here is the Platystele jungermannioides in bloom next to a toothpick…a freaking toothpick!!

Photo credit: Karlboms orchids, Flickr

…and here it is, in bloom, next to a human finger:

Photo credit: Orchids Wiki

In addition to Ecuador, the orchid is found in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Panama.

Photo credit: cospa.main.jp

And now, on to the scientific classification:

Family: Orchidaceae (Duh…maybe I should start omitting the family from this section.)

Subfamily: Epidendroideae

Tribe: Epidendreae

Subtribe: Pleurothallidinae

Genus: Platystele

Ahhh….the wonders of nature. Incroyable!!

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  1. Kristianstad, Sweden 20.07.2013

    To whom it may concern

    Whilst you may have considered this Platystele species as the smallest orchid in the world it could be of interest to point out three challengers from Europe; Malaxis monophyllos, Hammarby paludosa and especially Herminium monorchis. All of these three have flowers measuring maximum 2 mm in size. There are at least 3 – 5 others that have a flower size of between 2/3 – 5 mm, namely; Liparis loeselii, Neottia cordata, Pseudorchis albida, Dactylorhiza viridis, and maybe Goodyera repens and Corallorhiza trifida.

    With Kind Regards

    Fred Campbell

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