Rolling down to Rio? Well, the orchid fraternity and yours truly duly rolled in September for their Triennial jamboree -- the World Orchid Conference and Show. I am a great fan of events such as the World Orchid Conferences because they bring together scientists and horticulturists, both professional and amateur, from around the world in a way that just does not happen in other plant groups. I have always believed that they represent an opportunity for the cross-fertilisation of ideas from science to horticulture and vice-versa. Just think of the benefits brought to orchid growing by the happy meeting of Don Wimber and Alan Moon, the results of which are now being seen on nearly every show bench, where the polyploid slipper orchids that they developed are carrying off so many awards.
Was the Rio Conference a success? "Yes and no" must be the truthful answer. It was great to meet so many old friends and to make new ones. It was especially encouraging to see that Brazil has a new generation of well-qualified and enthusiastic orchid scientists. The lecture programme had highlights, such as Tony Cox's elegant presentation on the molecular systematics of slipper orchids, but could perhaps have had a broader spread of topics and more science and conservation. I am an advocate of scientists and horticulturists explaining their work to non-specialist audiences. All too often speakers assume too great a knowledge and obscure their message with jargon. In this context it was great to meet Wally Thomas again and to hear his plans for the next WOC in Vancouver in 1999 of which he is chairman. I am sure that he will find the right balance of topics that will attract a record audience. The theme of the Conference will be orchid conservation.
For me the highlights of the week were somewhat tangential to the main events: the launch of the exhibition and book of the orchid paintings of João Barbosa Rodrigues at the wonderful Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden (where he was Director a century ago) and the launch of the IUCN/SSC Orchid Action Plan at the Conference. The Action Plan, the first for any plant group, has been well received and also starred at the recent IUCN/SSC meeting in Montreal. I also visited David Miller's Serra da Maceo Reserve set high in the mountains northeast of Rio. It contains extensive tracts of rich Mâta Atlantica forest full of orchids. It was a particular pleasure to spend a couple of days there with Carl and Jane Luer and Antonio Toscano de Brito. Toscano is currently redeveloping the Orquidario at the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden, the completion of which next year is eagerly awaited. The next beanfeast of note is the European Orchid Conference in Geneva in April 1997. The provisional programme looks promising, and I hope to meet readers of the ORN there.
As well as keeping orchid researchers in contact, the ORN is the official place of publication of the minutes and other news of the IUCN/SSC Orchid Specialist Group. Its work covers all aspects of orchid conservation from species' recovery programmes and site protection to national and international legislation protecting orchids. The publication of the Action Plan mentioned above is one of its achievements of the past year. Further developments and strategy will be published in the ORN as appropriate.
News from Correspondents
Last Updated September 3, 1998.
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