Why did the Laelia plant become extinct - Causes

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We often hear about the extinction of animals or animals in a vulnerable state, but what about plant species? Are there plants in danger of extinction or even plants that have become extinct? Sadly yes, since plants are not exempt from threats that also endanger the existence of animals. Now, entering the plant world, orchids, those plants with structurally unique flowers and, by the way, very showy, suffer a very high risk of extinction mainly due to the excessive extraction of their specimens. Because of the beauty of this group, orchids have been used by different cultures for hundreds of years for both religious celebrations and ornament. This reason has led to the fact that today the orchid called Laelia gouldiana, commonly known as the flower of the dead, is considered extinct in Mexico.

Due to the above and so that this plant species is not forgotten, we will dedicate this Green Ecologist article to explain why the Laelia plant became extinct. In addition, we will detail its habitat, characteristics, taxonomy and more. We invite you to continue reading.

When the Laelia plant became extinct

Knowing how long a plant has been extinct in a place is a starting point for developing species reintroduction programs. However, if you want to know from when the Laelia gouldiana or flower of the dead is considered extinct, unfortunately, it is not possible to know exactly. The truth is that this species of orchid is extinct in the wild, that is, in nature, but there are some specimens in greenhouses. Therefore, it is very difficult to know for sure when was the moment in which the plant Laelia gouldiana it has ceased to be seen in nature. However, we must consider that the extinction of a species, in general, does not occur suddenly, but rather is a long and continuous process in time, until it completely disappears from one place or from the entire planet.

Causes of the extinction of the Laelia plant

Although there are several causes that led the Laelia plant to extinction, the main reason is the excessive extraction of their specimens from the wild and its later illegal commerce. In addition to the beauty of its flowers, the Laelia plant has a very important cultural value for the Mexican people, and for this reason it is sought after to decorate and adorn churches, altars and tombs during the popular Day of the Dead festival that is celebrated on 1 and November 2nd.

On the other hand, we cannot fail to mention that the change in land use, for agriculture and livestock, has severely contributed to the destruction of Laelia habitat and its consequent extinction.

Laelia plant taxonomy

Next, we will discuss the taxonomy of the Laelia plant and develop the characteristics of the taxonomic groups to which it belongs.

  • Kingdom: Plantae. It is the taxonomic group that brings together all the plants that exist in the biosphere. Learn more about it with this other post Kingdom Plantae: what it is, characteristics, classification and examples.
  • Division: Angiosperm. To this group belong all those plants that present flower. Here we talk about Angiosperm Plants: what they are, characteristics and examples.
  • Class: LiliĆ³psida. They are those plants that have a single cotyledon in the embryo, that is, the first leaf of the plant.
  • Order: Asparagales. A diverse group of organisms in which aloe, yucca, agave and more are found.
  • Family: Orchids. It is the taxonomic group in which orchids are found.
  • Gender: Laelia. This genus groups 23 species of orchids that are distributed throughout Mexico and Central America.
  • Species: Laelia gouldiana. It is the species in question. The specific epithet 'gouldiana' was chosen in honor of the botanist who first observed this species, Frank Walton Gould.

Characteristics of the Laelia plant

If you read this far, you will have noticed that this plant is one of many mexican orchids. These are the main characteristics of the plant Laelia gouldiana:

  • Like all orchids, its flowers present bilateral symmetry, this means that if we draw a straight line in the middle of the flower, we will obtain two identical symmetrical images.
  • With regard to the peculiarities of this species, its flower has a color that can vary from magenta to lilac.
  • The flowering period spans the fall and winter seasons.
  • In addition, it is a epiphytic plant, that is, it grows on another plant, using it only as a substrate, which does not imply that they are parasitic plants.

Habitat and distribution of the Laelia plant

The flower of the dead or Laelia gouldiana is endemic to the mountain range called Sierra Madre Oriental in northeastern Mexico. More precisely, its location is restricted to Estad Hidalgo, to the south of said mountain range. Precisely, the preferred habitat of this species is the mountainous areas 1,500 meters above sea level. There, rainfall is no more than 500 millimeters a year. Due to the altitude and annual precipitation conditions, this species is adapted to a cold and dry environment.

After learning all this about the Laelia plant, we recommend you read these other interesting articles:

  • Plants in danger of extinction in Mexico.
  • Flora and fauna of Mexico.
  • 20 extinct plants.

If you want to read more articles similar to Why the Laelia plant became extinctWe recommend that you enter our Nature Curiosities category.

Bibliography
  • Olmedo, Y. J. C., & Barrera, C. B. (2013). Extinction and Orchids of Hidalgo, Mexico. HGOM Herbarium Disclosure Bulletin. Hidalgo, Mexico, 26.

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