April 27, 2007 / 4:48 AM / 11 years ago

China's gold-mine wild orchids face extinction

BEIJING (Reuters) - Where have all the flowers gone?

Over-harvesting fuelled by surging market prices is threatening to wipe out several species of wild orchids in eastern China, some of which command as much as $175,000 a pot, state media reported on Friday.

Chinese horticulturalists warned that the lucrative trade had taken 10 species native to mountainous areas of Zhejiang province to the brink of extinction, the China Daily said.

“Excessive harvesting of wild orchids had also led to soil erosion and consequently affected the environment for other plants and animals,” the paper quoted an official in the province’s Xinchang county as saying.

Of more than 3,000 species native to China, Zhejiang used to be home to 2,400, but only 740 varieties remained, the paper said.

At a flower exhibition in Shaoxing, an ancient tourist town in eastern China, a pot of orchids sold for 1.35 million yuan ($175,000), the paper said, adding that the flowers were difficult to value.

Factors such as fragrance, species, shape of flower and leaves had to be taken into consideration, it said.

“Orchids are popular because they symbolize the noble character of the literati,” expert Chen Haijiao told the paper.

“Confucius and many other masters wrote a lot of poems about orchids. Therefore, Chinese people have a long tradition of appreciating orchids and a strong inclination to buy and grow (them).”

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