Seidenfaden's orchids – from conventional study collection to modern research facility and gene bank


Dr. Gunnar Seidenfaden, Denmark's first ambassador to Thailand, collected live orchids all over Thailand from 1957–1983 and used them to create a traditional study collection in the Botanical Garden in Copenhagen. A project supported by the Augustinus Foundation now aims at expanding the collection and utilizing it in new fields of conservation-related research. The project is scheduled to run from March 2012 until February 2017.

New accessions are mainly received in one of two ways: (1) as donations of plant material from other European botanical gardens and, in special cases, from private orchid growers; (2) as donations of seeds from Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, Chiang Mai, for asymbiotic germination and subsequent transfer of juvenile plants to the greenhouse. We also take the opportunity to broaden the scope of the collection to represent tropical Asian orchids in general. However, for scientific reasons we are particularly interested to increase our holdings of Thai orchids, the genus Dendrochilum and endemic taxa in general.

Since its establishment, the collection has contributed significantly to traditional ex situ conservation and to research-based development of tools for improving conservation-related decisions and priorities in a broader perspective. The collection has been (and remains) an important basis for taxonomic and floristic research, which has enabled a convincing treatment of the Orchidaceae in the Thai red-list. However, the research part of the current project has a much broader focus that also includes micropropagation, cryopreservation of seeds, DNA-barcoding and phylogenetic analysis.

A subset of the first asymbiotically propagated plants from this project have been offered to some of our international collaborators, including Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden. Hopefully, there will soon be more species to follow.

Contact: Dr. H.Æ. Pedersen, Natural History Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen