UFSC Biologists Find World's Smallest 0.5mm Orchid Flower

Species was named Campylocentrum insulare because of the island of SC. Discovery was cataloged and published in the journal Systematic Botany (USA).

Researchers at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) found in Florianopolis the smallest orchid flower ever identified in the world, less than half a millimeter. The discovery was cataloged and published in the US journal Systematic Botany in February this year.

The new species was named Campylocentrum insulare, named after the island of Santa Catarina, where the discovery was made. “It was almost by chance,” says botany researcher Carlos Eduardo de Siqueira.

In 2010, he was studying at the Botany Department a subtribe of micro-orchids when his master's advisor, Ana Zannin, brought from a field trip a plant that could belong to the group. “It looked like a common plant, I didn't care much, but I put it in the greenhouse.”

Later, Siqueira noticed a small white dot on the plant. “I thought it was a fungus. I was leaving, but I stopped and thought it was kind of different. ” The researcher then decided to take a closer look and noticed the tiny inflorescence - six small white petals with a yellow, leafless crumb.

Carlos Eduardo de Siqueira, UFSC researcher who cataloged the smallest orchid flower in the world

Siqueira then departed for the laboratory and began to perform all scientific procedures to confirm his discovery. “I took pictures with a microscope with a built-in camera, dissected the flower, disassembled the parts, set up cards. It was a very thorough job, ”he says.

The next step was identification. “I compared with what exists through bibliography, researched. There is no child in the world. I don't say it's the smallest orchid, because it's hard to compare with one that has leaves. But it is the smallest orchid flower in the world, ”says the researcher.

Siqueira called an expert in Campylocentrum, researcher Edlley Max Pessoa da Silva, who traveled from Pernambuco to Florianópolis to see the plant and also eventually subscribed to the article published in the United States. From the article's proposal to the publication, the discovery underwent several expert evaluations over the course of a year.

The find is the realization of a boy's dream. “It started when I was 12 and I got a book from my mom called 'The Amateur Naturalist,'” says Siqueira, who went to biology college after graduating in systems analysis.

"I tried from the beginning to do biology, but I didn't go through and there was a family pressure," says the scholar, who works as a civil servant in a computer center. "I say I'm a botanist in the morning and a technologist in the afternoon."

At the age of 40, he prepares to enter his doctorate and perhaps live on biology. “I want to make new discoveries,” he concludes.

Illustration details the world's smallest orchid flower discovered by UFSC researchers