By Jhoo Dong-chan

Kwangneung Lady’s Slipper orchid, or cypripedium japonicum thunb, is one of many endangered plants at the Rare and Endemic Plants Exhibition at the Korea National Arboretum (KNA) in Gwangneung Forest, Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province.

The orchid draws special attention from plant lovers because of its rarity.

“Kwangneung Lady’s Slipper orchid is a critically endangered (CR) plant,” said KNA plant conservation researcher Son Sung-won. “We estimate there are only 5,000 in fewer than 10 habitats in Korea

“Due to its interesting look, people have collected the plants indiscriminately. I heard there is even a black market.”

Lee Duk-hye, a visitor from Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, said, “It is a very rare opportunity to see the orchid. I thought the plant became extinct in Korea a long ago.”

The exhibition, the first of its kind, will end on May 16.

“It is our job to raise awareness about endangered plants and educate people on how to preserve them,” Son said. “We collected nearly 600 endangered plant specimens from around the country and try to propagate them”

Another exhibition attraction is Kungangguks, or pentactina rupicola nakai, which grows only in the Mount Geumgang area of North Korea

People in South Korea cannot see the plant because it is across the border

According to the KNA, American botanist Honest Wilson visited the mountain, collected the plant and took it to the botanical garden at Harvard University in 1917. The plant was propagated there, and some were handed to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in 1924.

Since the Kungangguks at Harvard University died long ago, the plant at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh was the only one remaining outside North Korea

The KNA signed an agreement with the botanic garden and brought the plant to South Korea in 2012.

“We are very proud that many CR-rated plants are raised and propagated here,” said Son. “Nearly 3,000 people visit the exhibition every day. ”

Reservations are required for the exhibition at www.knago. kr

SOURCE: The Korea Times