Ongoing Orchid Research Projects



A. L. V. Toscano de Brito, PhD.


This is an ongoing project currently developed by Dr. Antonio Toscano de Brito, based at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, in collaboration with Universidade Federal do Paraná, located in Curitiba, south of Brazil. It consists in the study of two orchid groups: The Pleurothallid Orchids and the Bird’s Head Orchids.

The Pleurothallid Orchids (subtribe Pleurothallidinae) comprises ca. 5,000 species distributed all over the Neotropics, but specially in South America. They are usually very small plants with tiny flowers and are known as the “Jewels of the Forest.” Over 700 species of this group are found in the Atlantic forest of southeastern Brazil, and many are still completely unknown to science.

The Bird’s Head Orchids, the Ornithocephalus group of subtribe Oncidiinae, comprises 12 genera and about 100 epiphytic species distributed in tropical North, South and Central America from Mexico to Argentina, with three Ornithocephalus species known to the Lesser Antilles. The center of diversity is in the Atlantic forest in southeastern Brazil, where several genera and species are found nowhere else in the world.

The Atlantic forest, or “Mata Atlântica”, is Brazil’s most imperiled rainforest and one of the most threatened biomes of the world. Only ca. 5% is left and what is left holds over 2,000 orchid species of which ca. 800 species belong to the two study groups.

These research projects are a continuing investigation, which requires funding for field work in the Brazilian rainforests aiming to document and collect samples and data for an inventory and evolutionary studies of these orchid groups. It also requires herbarium work and supervision of Brazilian graduate students who are preparing Master and PhD dissertations on various genera of these two orchid groups.

Field research is necessary to fill gaps and complement taxonomical, molecular, and morphological data obtained so far on these orchids. Several areas of Atlantic forest have been selected in northeastern and southeastern Brazil.

The minute flowers of most of the orchids under investigation requires sophisticated equipment with greater magnification and improved lighting. Dr. Wade Collier, photographer and volunteer at Selby, has joined the project and we have been currently using stacking macrophotography, which combines several images taken at different depths of field to produce a final, sharp, composite image. Therefore, funding is being currently sought for acquisition of additional photographic equipment, software, and computer able to process the captured images.

We anticipate publication of scientific articles in per-reviewed journals, presentations to the general public and orchid societies, and presentation of posters and abstracts in National and International Conferences.

Restricted donations to be used specifically for this project may be made to:

Sarasota Orchid Society

Brazil Project

P.O. Box 19895

Sarasota, FL 34276-2895

Please write “Brazil Project” on your check

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