Laura Azandi, a PhD student at Cameroon’s University of Yaounde I, recently spent time at CBI’s Bouamir Research Station studying a particular species of orchid, Cyrtorchis letouzeyi.
Africa is home to about 10,000 species of orchids. There’s pearl-white Ancistrorhynchus recurvus, with flowers small enough to fit on a thumbnail. The blooms of Tridactyle bicaudata grow in a double row on a single stalk, canary-yellow petals arranged like an abstract design. Bulbophyllum schinzianum has spiky petals fringed with purple hair.
The dizzying array of orchid shapes and colors comes, in part, from years of coevolution between the plants and their pollinators. Understanding these plant-pollinator relationships helps shed light on fundamental evolutionary mechanisms. And it allows scientists to develop effective conservation strategies to protect orchids, a key component of biodiversity in tropical Africa.
Laura Azandi, a PhD student at Cameroon’s University of Yaounde I, recently spent time at CBI’s Bouamir Research Station studying a particular species of orchid, Cyrtorchis letouzeyi. The species is endemic to Cameroon, and, like most orchids, is an epiphyte, meaning it grows on another plant.
Over the course of her fieldwork in Bouamir, Azandi set up a pollinator monitoring system using camera traps and insect traps. She is working to census C. letouzeyi, characterize its habitat and reproductive success, and identify its pollinators. Like many other orchid species, C. letouzeyi’s specific pollinators are still a mystery. One Azandi is hoping to uncover.
Azandi's research at Bouamir was supported by a grant from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. Video credit: Chris Sorenson