Introduction next


As I write the introductions to the Orchid Research Newsletter every July, it is my pleasure to recap some of the highlights of the 16th World Orchid Conference held in Vancouver, British Colombia, from 22 April through 3 May of this year. Phillip Cribb shares my congratulations to Wally Thomas and the many other members of the Organizing Committee for planning and executing one of the most problem-free World Orchid Conferences in recent memory. As the sales booths and the show closed down on Sunday, the delegates left with a profound love for the beautiful harbour city of Vancouver and its genuinely friendly residents. Some lucky few were able to see the magnificent Calypso bulbosa and other species in flower on Vancouver Island.

The theme of the Conference was conservation, which carried through the lecture series and posters but also extended to the sales area and even registration, when each registrant was given a flask of seedlings. Aside from talks on the various threats to orchids, chiefly habitat loss and overcollection, there were some inspiring talks and posters on what is being done at every geographic level from international to local and and many taxonomic levels down to even individual populations. Modern molecular methods such as AFLPs (amplified fragment length polymorphisms) allow us to assess the genetic variation within populations of endangered or threatened species and thereby add critical data in the legislative struggle for protection and management of habitats.

A secondary theme that arose from the lecture series is the impact of ongoing molecular systematics on orchid nomenclature. The nomenclature in some orchid groups such as the slipper orchids is not likely to change, but that in others such as Oncidiinae, Laeliinae, and Pleurothallidinae will undergo some generic rearrangements following compelling and well supported results from both nuclear and chloroplast sequences. We are now able to provide a genetic and more objective basis for generic concepts and relationships as well as to reconstruct the phylogeny of major groups in the family. Delegates to the Conference realized that these are indeed exciting times in orchid systematics and expressed interest in hearing more molecular results at the 17th World Orchid Conference in Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia, and the 18th in Paris!

Minutes of the Thirteenth Plenary Meeting of the International Orchid Commission held in Vancouver are included in this issue, courtesy of Peter F. Hunt, Orchid Registrar. In them are the reports from the Conservation Committee, Taxonomy and Nomenclature Committee, and Handbook Committee, all of which will repay careful reading.

Alec Pridgeon

Title page
News from Correspondents

20 January, 2000.
Copyright The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.