After eight days in the Cardamom Mountains in the west of Cambodia, Kew's Senior Orchid Researcher, André Schuiteman and I returned to Phnom Penh with the plants and herbarium specimens we had collected.
We needed to stay in Phnom Penh for another week finalising the import and export permits which were required to allow us to legally bring the plants and specimens back to Kew. During this last week of the trip, the plants were kept in the garden of one of our counterparts. Although they were laid out in the shade, the temperatures in Phnom Penh still required the plants to be watered and checked daily.
Due to unforeseeable private circumstances one of the key authorities was unavailable for almost a week, and as a result André's stay in Cambodia had to be extended by four days, while I returned to the UK. Andre continued to await the issue of the Cambodian export permits as these had to exactly match the UK import permit. Once the permits were issued, the plants, herbarium specimens and André headed back to Kew.
On arrival in the UK, the plants were delivered to the Quarantine House at Kew, where they will be held under Kew's Plant Health License issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
In the Quarantine House, the plants have been potted or mounted on bark slabs, to establish them in cultivation as new growth and roots appear.
Some of the specimens have already flowered and these have been photographed and collected for storage in the herbarium spirit collection. As the remaining plants flower they will be identified, either confirming or adding them to the species list recorded for the Cambodian orchid flora.
We already know that some of the species collected are new records for Cambodia. One of the most frequently seen species during the trip, Podochilus lucescens, although known from adjacent Thailand, is not currently recorded on the published lists of species for Cambodia.
We expect that more of our plants will turn out to be new country records for Cambodia and we would not be surprised if one or two were altogether new to science. Continued collaboration and more fieldwork in other parts of Cambodia is needed before we can produce a reasonably complete inventory of the orchid flora of this intriguing country.
While the plants collected in Cambodia are currently being held in quarantine, many other similar south-east Asian species can be seen in the orchid displays in the Princess of Wales Conservatory as part of Kew's Orchids festival.