The National First-class Protected Wild Plant Sold on E-commerce Platforms | Wildlife-Free E-Commerce Initiative
2020/5/10 13:54:00 本站

Editor’s note:


Recently, the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (CBCGDF) has received reports from volunteers that some publicly sell paphiopedilum online. Over 1,000 orchid plants have been sold. The sales information has attracted a lot of purchasers. But the vendor ignores the fact that paphiopedilum is the national first-class protected plant and any behaviors of digging and selling is illegal and claims that it is the first time for him/her to hear about that.


So, how is the conservation situation of orchid in China?


According to the Flora Reipublicae Popularis Sinicae, China has 1,247 species of orchid plants from 171 genus, including subspecies and varieties. What the vendor has sold online is paphiopedilum. China has 18 paphiopedilum species, mainly distributing in the southwest and south of China. The Red List of Biodiversity in China (Higher Plant) compiled by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (formerly the Ministry of Environmental Protection) and Chinese Academy of Sciences has listed 31 paphiopedilum species which are all threatened (3 Near Threatened, 7 Vulnerable, 11 Endangered, and 8 Critically Endangered). Now, all 29,000 orchid species are listed by CITES.


The Orchidaceae are a diverse family. Due to its complicated life story, especially the biological interaction with insects during the pollination and reproduction, the set rate is comparatively low (about 10%). Orchid is vulnerable to human interference like obsessive digging, at the risk of extinction. Paphiopedilum barbigerum, the national first-class protected plant, is distinct from other orchid species because of its bright yellow obovate-shaped staminodium- this is a “delicate trap” for its pollinator, hoverfly.


Hoverfly has a preference for yellow objects as this color represents pollen that hoverfly relies on for living and reproduction. Once the pollinator tricked by orchid into the “trap”, it has to get out through the only "passageway" filled with pollen and stigma on the back of the petal. Therefore, each hoverfly would carry pollen before it goes free.


The distant hybridization is achievable when pollinating hoverflies travel a long distance to reach another orchid plant, thus contributing to more diverse mating combinations. The unique flower type of paphiopedilum may add value for the exhibition but could be adverse to its survival. The characteristic of the flower type restricts a limited kind of insects to function as pollinators. It is also unknown how many hoverflies would be tricked under its reproduction strategy that only benefits itself.


Many orchid species like the tiny flowered paphiopedilum (Paphiopedilum micranthum), Paphiopedilum dianthum, and Paphiopedilum hirsutissimum have adopted similar tricky strategies to the reproduction, which is determined by the unique reproductive structure of the Orchidaceae as well as the outcome of coevolution with its pollinators.


The high ornamental value of the Orchidaceae helps it win a good reputation and is hailed as "Gentleman of Flower", having been worshipped by refined scholars since ancient times. The orchid family also has high economic value. Awareness of conservation has not yet been developed during exploitation and utilization. Obsessive digging, habitat fragmentation, and loss lead to the decreasing population of orchid. 


Over half (18) of the 31 orchid species listed in the Red List have been ranked as the national second-class protected plant, and the discussion of upgrading the protective level is ongoing. More information can be found at the China Rare and Endangered Plant System with illustrations which makes market supervision easier. No buying, no killing.


According to the existing Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Wild Plants Protection, if anyone, in violation of these Regulations, sells or purchases wild plants under special state protection, the administrative department for industry and commerce or the department of wild plants administration shall, in accordance with their respective duties, confiscate the wild plants and illegal earnings, and may concurrently impose a fine up to 10 times the illegal earnings (Article 24).


The protection of rare and endangered species needs joint efforts, so as to prolong the existence of wild orchid in the plant history.

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Original Chinese article:

By / Wang Yanqing