Do you see a devil in this orchid?

Devil orchid
CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Marta Kolanowska

Named for 'el diablo' himself, a new and extremely rare orchid species reveals a wicked heart.

Some people see Jesus on their toast, a man on the moon, the Virgin Mary on a wall. For scientists in Colombia who have discovered a rare new species of flower, they’ve born witness to a devil in an orchid.

Found by Dr. Marta Kolanowska and Professor Dariusz Szlachetko, both with the University of Gdansk, Poland, and Dr. Ramiro Medina Trejo from Colombia, the devilish new species is comprised of a lone population of 30 orchids growing in a small patch in a south Colombian dwarf montane forest.

Devil orchidMarta Kolanowska/CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

While the new species is similar in some regards to other species, it has some unique traits. Like the clawed petals and this: The heart of the flower looks suspiciously like a demon’s head! Which has given rise to the flower’s name, Telipogon diabolicus.

(Do you see that distinct devil face? A few people I asked didn't see it as first – though I saw it immediately ... which does kind of bring Hermann Rorschach to mind. Hmm.)

With its habitat so restricted, the orchid is already assigned as a Critically Endangered species in the IUCN Red List. Further threatening the species is that its location is considered highly vulnerable as it’s near a main road that is currently undergoing reconstruction. Here’s hoping that the devil prevails in this one.

For more: Telipogon diabolicus is described in the open access journal PhytoKeys.

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