Australian Orchid Foundation


Project: 320/2017

Title: Communicating research on Australasian Bulbophyllum orchids
Applicant: Lalita Simpson


The mainly epiphytic orchid genus Bulbophyllum (Dendrobieae, Bulbophyllinae) is the second largest genus of flowering plants with ~ 2,200 species in 97 sections. The genus has a pantropical distribution with main centres of diversity in Australasia.

(New Guinea) and Asia, which harbour 67 sections and ~ 1,700 species. Previous phylogenetic studies of the genus have identified four main lineages that exhibit a strong biogeographical signal, with each clade mostly endemic to either continental Africa, Madagascar, the Neotropics or Asia/Australasia. Studies have focused mainly on the Neotropical and Madagascan taxa, while evolutionary relationships among the diverse Asian and Australasian taxa were poorly understood.

The Australian Tropical Herbarium is conducting research using high throughput DNA sequencing techniques to provide new insights into evolutionary relationships within Bulbophyllum, with a focus on the Asian and Australasian taxa. The genomic studies aim to resolve broader level sectional relationships within the genus and to provide more detailed insights into evolution of the Australasian orchid section Adelopetalum.

The research has provided new insights into the evolutionary relationships within Bulbophyllum and its biogeographic, particularly regarding the Asian and Australasian taxa. The details of this research will be published in peer reviewed scientific papers in addition to a PhD thesis.

The Australian Orchid Foundation supported the presentation of the results of this research in a talk at the conference and annual meeting of the Australasian Systematic Botany Society: ‘Systematics 2017, integrating Systematics for Ecology and Conservation’ in Adelaide (26th-29th of November 2017). The talk entitled ‘Asian-Australasian biotic exchange – phylogenomic insights from the mega diverse genus Bulbophyllum (Orchidaceae)’ was presented in the symposium ‘Asian-Australian biotic exchange’ symposium on Tuesday 28th of November 2018.


Manuscript preprint:  Lalita Simpson, Mark A Clements, Harvey K Orel, Darren Crayn, Katharina Nargar.   Plastid phylogenomics clarifies broad-level relationships in Bulbophyllum (Orchidaceae) and provides insights into range evolution of Australasian section Adelopetalum.

bioRxiv   Can be downloaded: doi: