New species crowned ‘world’s ugliest orchid’

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. ugly / ˈʌg li / (adj.) – not beautiful or pleasant to look at

    Why does everyone say Anne’s new dog is cute? I think it’s so ugly!

  2. threatened species / ˈθrɛt nd ˈspi ʃiz / (n.) – a plant or animal species that’s likely to soon become endangered

    The senators want to pass a law to protect more threatened species in the country.

  3. shrub / ʃrʌb / (n.) – a plant that’s smaller than a tree and has several woody stems

    Our neighbor has a garden filled with flowers and shrubs.

  4. bizarre / bɪˈzɑr / (adj.) – very unusual or strange and difficult to explain

    Bizarre things keep happening in that house, so many people think that it’s haunted.

  5. hence / hɛns / (adv.) – as a consequence of what one has just said

    I tripped and sprained my left ankle, hence my swollen foot.


Read the text below.

Orchids are not often called ugly, but that is how the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, London, described a new species of the normally vibrant and delicate flower discovered in the forests of Madagascar.

Gastrodia agnicellus, one of 156 plants and fungal species named by Kew scientists and their partners around the world in 2020, has been crowned “the ugliest orchid in the world.”

“The 11-millimeter flowers of this orchid are small, brown and rather ugly,” Kew said in its list of the top 10 discoveries of the year. The orchid depends on fungi for nutrition and has no leaves or any other photosynthetic tissue.

Although assessed as a threatened species, the plants have some protection because they are located in a national park.

Among the other discoveries officially named this year were six new species of webcap toadstool mushrooms in the United Kingdom and a strange shrub encountered in southern Namibia in 2010.

The shrub has bizarre scaly leaves and grows in extremely hot natural salt pans, hence its name Tiganophyton, derived from the Latin tigani, or “frying pan,” and phyton, or “plant.” (Reuters)

This article was provided by The Japan Times Alpha.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • The new species of orchid was crowned “the ugliest orchid in the world.” If you had to crown the ugliest animal in the world, which animal would you choose? Why? Discuss.
  • The orchid’s flowers were described by Kew scientists as small, brown, and rather ugly. However, it’s often said that ugliness is subjective. Do you think that some people might find the orchid’s flowers beautiful? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Last year, 156 new plants and fungal species were named by Kew scientists. Do you think that we’ll keep finding more and more new species, or have humans more or less discovered all life on Earth? Why? Discuss.
  • What area of the Earth do you think has the most potential to hide life from humans (ex. the deep ocean, dense rainforests)? Why? Discuss.