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The cultivation and medicinal use of orchids are Chinese traditions that date back millennia, but scientific documentation of southeast China’s native orchids commenced with the establishment of European trade bases at Macau in the 16th Century and at Guangzhou in the 18th Century. João de Loureiro, a Portuguese missionary, collected Pecteillis susannae and Spiranthes sinensis during his visit to these enclaves from 1779-1782 and John Dampier Parks, a collector for the Horticultural Society of London, sent back specimens of Coelogyne fimbriata and Robiquetia succisa from the region in the 1820s. The earliest survey of orchids on Hong Kong Island is attributed to Dr. Clarke Abel, naturalist abord HMS Alceste during Lord Amherst’s ill-fated diplomatic mission to the court of the Qing Dynast in 1816, when he botanised the lower slopes of what was to become know as Mt. Victoria. The island was formally ceded to the United Kingdom following the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, and the Kowloon Peninsula and New Territories were added to the colony in 1860 and 1898 respectively.
A century of exploration ensued: over 40 new orchids were named from plants collected within the territory, and even in the short period that has elapsed since its return to Chinese rule, Hong Kong’s narrow valleys and precipitous summits have continued to yield novelties. Collabiam chinense and Vanilla schnzhenica were added to the list of native orchids as recently as 1998. In total, 126 species and varieties representing all five orchid subfamilies have been recorded from Hong Kong, a staggering figure given its diminutive size. Hong Kong’s landscape has changed dramatically throughout its history, and emphasis is increasingly placed on developing an understanding of the plants’ ecology in order to ensure their persistence for future generations. This book provides descriptions and discusses the discovery of all the native species, and the conservation status of each is assessed.