➤ Got questions? Feel free to inbox us, beginning with “Let’s talk about…” followed by your question. We will select some of your queries and ask suitable experts for opinion.
Mr. Berry Chu - Reintroduction of Orchid Q&A
Berry is the President of the Hong Kong Artistic Orchid Association, and before retirement, a Chinese teacher. Now he devotes all his time to orchid contemplating, breeding, and promotion to Hongkongers. He published a book “A Guide to Hong Kong Orchids'' in 2019. Earlier, Berry was invited to our Facebook page to do a live stream, sharing his experience of tracking orchids in the wild in Hong Kong and the problems involved.
Click here to revisit the online seminar: https://bit.ly/2MBJeJq
Interview with Berry: https://bit.ly/3j5hfOI
Q: How many species of orchids are there in the world, and how many are there in Hong Kong?
A: There are about 700 genuses and 28,000 species of orchids in the world. Orchids are everywhere except for the polar regions. They are most commonly found in tropical and subtropical areas, while being rare in high-altitude areas (above 3000 meters). There are 171 genera and 1247 species of orchids in China, and Hong Kong alone has about 50 genera (about 1/3 of China) and more than 130 species (about 1/10 of China), which is 2.5 times more than the United Kingdom (which has only 50 species), showing the rich biodiversity of Hong Kong.
Q: Why are there so many species of orchids in Hong Kong?
A: The main reason why Hong Kong orchid species are so diverse is because of the wind direction. Typhoons blow the seeds from other places (e.g., Philippines) to Hong Kong, and the North Wind brings the seeds from the mainland here, creating the rich diversity of orchids locally.
Q：What do the public need to pay attention to when watching wild orchids?
A: First, as an orchid “hunter”, we should remember to “appreciate orchids with our eyes, not with our hands.” Do not damage the plants, not even spraying them with water. When photographing orchids, we should not use flashlights because it will also affect them. After all, nature itself is the best beautymaker. There is no need for too much artificial adornment. Also remember not to trample or damage nearby plants just for the sake of taking pictures. Finally, avoid disclosing the locations to prevent unnecessary disturbance or illegal picking.
Q: Where can I see wild orchids in Hong Kong?
A: It is easier to spot them in places with high humidity and good ventilation, such as those near the upper mountain streams. Epiphytic Species grow on specific trees. For example, Loddiges's Dendrobium is particularly fond of Camphor Trees. Therefore, you can pay special attention to certain species of trees.
Q：What is the impact of reintroduced orchids on native orchids?
A: Compared to other plants such as Mile-a-minute Weed, orchids seldom compete with or harm native plants in Hong Kong. However, releasing non-native species into the wild may disrupt the genes of native plants, and also confuse researchers to mistake them as native species (e.g.Moth Orchid, which is not native to Hong Kong). This could affect the research of Hong Kong orchids.
Of course, the above refers to unofficial release activities only. Conservation organizations, such as Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, will plan organized reintroduction programmes for conservation and remediation purposes. They will conduct extensive research beforehand to select suitable sites and will monitor, record, and track the reintroduced species.
Q：Is there a risk of Hong Kong orchids becoming extinct?
A：More than 50% of Hong Kong orchids are Endangered or Critically Endangered species; and more than 80% are near threatened to Critically Endangered species.
Q: What factors are threatening the survival of Hong Kong orchids?
A: There are three factors that threaten Hong Kong orchids. The first one is climate change, which affects the life cycle of orchids and insects (pollinators). For example, the orchids may bloom early before the insects are even hatched; or late after the insects have hatched or died. This will greatly affect orchids’ reproduction. Urban development is the second factor. Orchids are difficult to leave their native habitat and urban development will further threaten their survival. The last factor is illegal picking.
Q: What actions can Hong Kong take to conserve orchids?
A: The first and most important action is public education. The second is to protect the orchids’ native habitat from urban development. We should only consider relocating the orchids to places with less human activities if in situ conservation is not feasible. The third is industrialization. For example, if people can easily buy Lady's Slippers at flower markets, they will not go to the mountains to pick them illegally.
Wild Orchids in Hong Kong