AFRICAN

ORCHIDS

Liparis salassia (Pers.) Summerh., Kew Bull. 8: 133 (1953).
Homotypic Synonyms:
Epipactis salassia Pers., Syn. Pl. 2: 513 (1807).
Serapias salassia (Pers.) Steud., Nomencl. Bot.: 767 (1821).
Ophrys salassia (Pers.) Comm. ex A.Rich., Mém. Soc. Hist. Nat. Paris 4: 47 (1828).
Neottia salassia (Pers.) Steud., Nomencl. Bot., ed. 2, 2: 189 (1841).
Heterotypic Synonyms:
Malaxis purpurascens Thouars, Hist. Orchid.: t. 26 (1822).
Liparis purpurascens (Thouars) Lindl., Bot. Reg. 11: t. 882 (1825).
Leptorkis purpurascens (Thouars) Kuntze, Revis. Gen. Pl. 2: 670 (1891).
Description:
Small erect or divergent terrestrial or rarely epiphytic or lithophytic plant on a short ascending up to 16 cm tall but generally around 10 cm, completely reddish to violet-red when alive, rhizome c. 3 mm diam., roots thin, villous. The most recent 2 or 3 growths retaining their leaves, older pseudobulbs becoming reptant. Pseudobulbs stem-like, fusiform to somewhat angular, purple-red, 5 – 10 cm × 3 – 6 mm, partly covered by 2 – 4 sheaths (10 – 15 mm long), generally carrying 2 apical leaves and sometimes a 3rd smaller leaf a little lower. Leaves somewhat coriaceous, cordate to ovate, abruptly contracted into a short petiole (5 – 12 mm), margins more or less undulate, 2 – 6 × 1.5 – 3.5 cm, dark green, glossy, the veins and petiole dark red-purple, purple-brown underneath. Inflorescence up to 10 cm long, generally shorter, somewhat grooved, dark red-brown. Peduncle with 1 – 2 cordate to lanceolate peduncle sheaths c. 5 × 2 mm. Rachis sub-corymbose, elongating with age, with up to 16 flowers, generally fewer. Floral bracts lanceolate, 5 – 5.8 × 1.2 – 1.5 mm, much shorter than the pedicellate ovary, reddish-brown. Flowers medium in size, up to 1.4 × 1.5 mm, ovary, dorsal sepal and petals burgundy, lateral sepals yellow-brown more or less marked with burgundy, lip pale-yellow with the veins dark burgundy, column white marked with purple, anther pale yellow, pollinia orange to brown. Pedicel and ovary tubular to fusiform, twisted, sulcate, up to 12 × 1.5 mm, elongating with age. Dorsal sepal recurved, subulate to linear, margins incurved, subapiculate, 5.5 – 8 × 0.7 – 1.4 mm. Lateral sepals oblong ovate, obtuse, connate at the base, folded underneath the lip, 4.7 – 6.7 × 2 × 2.9 mm. Petals descending to divergent, subulate to linear, the margins more or less incurved, subapiculate, obtuse, 4.5 – 5.6 × 0.2 – 0.3 mm. Lip suborbicular to obcordate-triangular, curved downwards toward the middle, base with long upturned lobes entire at the margins, forming small auricles at the base, emarginated to apiculate at the front, anterior margins serrate to laciniate, with a more or less pronounced basal callus which can be divided, 3.5 – 5.9 × 4.2 – 4.9 mm. Column elongate, arcuate toward the apex, wings at the tip obtusely triangular, 2 – 3.4 × 0.7 – 1.5 mm. Anther ovoid, strongly beaked, c. 1.1 × 0.9 mm. Pollinia ovoid c. 0.4 × 0.3 mm. Seed capsule oblong, a little narrowed from the apex to the base, pedicel slender, c. 12 × 3.5 mm.
Etymology:
The type description refers to Mt Salass in the middle of Réunion, referring to les Salazes, N of the Cirque de Cilaos (Jean-Michel Hervouet, pers. comm. 2017).
Recognition:
A distinctive small plant with a short thin pseudobulb and two to three, cordate to ovate, purple-red leaves, with undulate margins, at the top. Its inflorescence is subcorymbose and bears medium-sized, more or less burgundy coloured flowers, with a paler lip with a serrate anterior margin and indistinct rounded callus. The anther is distinctly beaked. It is quite distinct from all the other Madagascan and Mascarene species in its typical habit, lip shape and colour.
Habitat:
Terrestrial, epiphytes (semi-epiphytic on moss-covered trunks of trees), sometimes lithophytes; forming more or less scattered colonies; preferring higher elevations and cooler, wetter to moist conditions; in wet to moist soils and humus, in leaf litter and/or between mosses, grasses, herbs; in evergreen forest. In Ile de la RÈunion the species is recorded as epiphyte on old trunks with moss and at the base of arborescence ferns: Cyattea excelsa (endemic to RÈunion and Mauritius) and Cyattea borbonica (endemic to Madagascar, RÈunion and Mauritius).
Phenology:
December to April in Madagascar, generally March to May in the Mascarenes.
Cultivation:
As given for the genus.
Distribution:
Comoros, Madagaskar, RÈunion, Mauritius. Alt.: 1000-1500 m.
References:
A new taxon of Malgasian Liparis salassia (Orchidaceae, Malaxidinae) from Le RÈunion, Biodiv. Res. Conserv. 24: 13-18, 2011; Malaxideae (Orchidaceae) in Madagascar, the Mascarenes, Seychelles and Comoro Islands Kew Bulletin volume 75, Article number: 1 (2020)
Images:
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Habitat/In situ  Habitat/In situ  Habitat/In situ  Habitat/In situ  Habitat/In situ  Habitat/In situ 
liparis salassia 01  liparis salassia 02  liparis salassia 03  liparis salassia 04  liparis salassia 05  liparis salassia 06 
Photograph ©Frederic
Henze. Image used with
kind permission. 
Photograph ©Frederic
Henze. Image used with
kind permission. 
Photograph ©Frederic
Henze. Image used with
kind permission. 
Photograph ©Frederic
Henze. Image used with
kind permission. 
Photograph ©Frederic
Henze. Image used with
kind permission. 
Photograph ©Frederic
Henze. Image used with
kind permission.