Some of the rarest butterfly orchids in the world have been sighted for the first time in 175 years in the Azores. Scientist discovered the Platanthera azorica on a remote cliff in the Laurisilva forest on the island of São Jorge. Professor Richard Bateman and Dr Paula Rudall, from the UK’s Royal Botanic Gardens, found the orchids. In all, they found three species - a Short-spurred butterfly orchid (or Platanthera pollostantha), a Narrow-lipped butterfly orchid (or Platanthera micrantha) that exist on at 8 of the 9 Azores islands. But, the newly found Platanthera azorica appears to thrive only on the slopes of São Jorge.
"P. azorica is arguably Europe’s rarest bona fide orchid species," their report says "and the almost equally rare Platanthera micrantha is one of the best indicators of semi-natural Laurisilva habitats remaining on the Azores."
Orchidaceae is a diverse familyof flowering plants with blooms, commonly known as the orchid family. They are one of the two largest families of flowering plants, with between 21,950 and 26,000 species.
Laurisilva Forests once covered a large portion of the ancient Earth. today Madeira and Azores account for some 80% of what remains. These ancient Laurel forest are a sub-tropical forest with high humidity and stable, mild temperatures. The forest is rich in evergreens and broad leaf trees with glossy leaves known as "laurophyll" or "lauroid." Isolation protected and preserved the Azores’ Laurisilva Forest.
The Laurisilva Forest dates from the Tertiary period some 65 million years ago and lasted more than 63 million years, until 1.8 million years ago. It began to disappear from the Mediterranean basin about 10,000 years ago as the climate changed.
The Laurisilva is found primarily at an altitude between 900 and 4,200 feet and protects a wide variety of rare flora like orchids - and fauna including the rare Priolo bullfinch. The Laurisilva Forest laurel tree is conical tree that can grow as high as 60 ft. tall. Today, the Laurus azorica is only found in the archipelago of the Azores.