AFRICAN

ORCHIDS

Liparis flavescens (Thouars) Lindl., Bot. Reg. 11: t. 882 (1825).
Homotypic Synonyms:
Malaxis flavescens Thouars, Hist. Orchid.: t. 25 (1822).
Leptorkis flavescens (Thouars) Kuntze, Revis. Gen. Pl. 2: 671 (1891).
Description:
Very small to small, terrestrial or epiphytic plant, squat, 6 – 11 cm, rhizome very short, older pseudobulb leafless and porrect to horizontal, the flowering one erect, roots glabrous, thin and wiry. Pseudobulbs 1 – 5 cm, 8 – 19 mm diam., covered by membranous leaf sheaths, carrying 2 – 4 erectly-spreading leaves but generally with 2 prominent leaves. Leaves lanceolate or ovate, acute, 5.6 – 6.5 × 1.2 – 3.9 cm, membranous, normally strongly 7-veined, pale green. Inflorescence erect up to 22 cm long but usually shorter, thin, laxly 2 – 15-flowered in the upper half. Peduncle carrying 2 – 4 ovate-lanceolate, acuminate peduncle sheaths, slightly auriculate at the base, 3.8 – 8 × 2 – 3.1 mm. Rachis laxly flowered, 5 – 8 cm. Floral bracts ovate-lanceolate, acuminate, about ½ the length of the pedicellate ovary, 2.5 – 5 × 1.2 – 1.8 mm. Flowers small to medium in size, av. 11 × 8 mm, greenish-yellow, turning orange with age, the disk of the lip darker green, column paler. Pedicel and ovary 5 – 11 × 0.5 – 1.5 mm, slightly ridged, rounded. Dorsal sepal linear-ligulate, margins recurved, 4.7 – 8.4 × 0.9 – 1.8 mm. Lateral sepals broadly oblong-falcate, obtuse, 4.8 – 8.1 × 2.7 – 3 mm. Petals linear 5.8 – 8 × 0.3 – 0.9 mm. Lip broadly ovate, sinuate to crenate at the margins, base with two small to very small rounded calli at the base forming a saddle-shape, 5 – 6.3 × 4.9 × 5.5 mm. Column strongly arched, narrowed in the middle, with the wings obtuse-triangular, 1.8 – 3.9 × 0.8 – 1.2 mm. Anther rounded with a small acute apicule at the anterior margin, c. 1.1 × 0.9 mm. Pollinia ovoid, c. 0.4 × 0.3 mm.
Etymology:
Refers to the yellowish colour of the flowers.
Recognition:
Liparis flavescens is a small and squat plant, with the pseudobulb covered by sheaths and leaf base, the previous year’s pseudobulb being leafless and porrect. It bears three to four lanceolate to ovate, strongly veined leaves with a short petiole. Somewhat cordate, sterile bracts, auriculate at the base, are found along the lower half of spike. The medium to small flowers have a rounded lip, slightly crenate at front, with two small calli at base in a saddle shape and a short, sharply beaked anther.
Most, if not all records from Madagascar of Liparis flavescens are based on misidentifications. Liparis andringitrana seems to be its closest relative in Madagascar but generally its pseudobulbous stem is shorter and thicker, the leaf petiole longer, the flowers a little smaller and the callus more distinctly bilobed. It is also similar to L. nephrocardia but it has a much longer inflorescence and rounded column wings (vs triangular in L. nephrocardia). It is close to L. nectarina in habit and lip shape but the leaves of L. flavescens are membranous not leathery, strongly many-veined (vs 3-veined), the lip margin is entire (vs clearly emarginate and more deeply undulate), and the lateral sepals overlap (vs spreading). It shares the habit, inflorescence and flower habit of L. bowkeri from Southern Africa but L. flavescens is considerably larger, with more and larger flowers
Habitat:
In moist shady places on the sides of ravines and cascades, open ground or forest. Amongst mosses, terrestrial or rarely epiphytic on large branches and tree trunks. Altitude: 400 – 1500 m.
Flowering time:
February to August.
Notes:
Du Petit-Thouars (1822) first described and illustrated Liparis flavescens as Malaxis flavescens. He was not specific as to where it was found but mentioned Îles de France [Mauritius] and Bourbon [Réunion] in his descriptive table. Du Petit Thouars’ holotype in Paris has no indication of locality and is fragmentary, the flowers consisting of partly damaged parts only and it is difficult to see distinct features but is without doubt the original material used by the author. His description and illustration also provide limited information. In 1825, Lindley transferred the species to the genus Liparis, Richard in 1828 also included it in Liparis but marked it as his own transfer, three years after Lindley’s reclassification. In 1891 Kuntze placed it in Leptorchis. Ames (1908: 127) made the combination of Malaxis flavescens for an Asian species in error.
Du Petit-Thouars, in his description, indicated the width of the leaves at ¼ pouce wide (c. 6 mm), this is different from what is shown in his drawing. Perrier, in his revision of Liparis (1936: 256), was not certain of the existence of the species in Madagascar. He mentioned that a Lyall specimen quoted by Ridley (1885: 460) seems to be another species (this is L. imerinensis at K with a drawing in K-Lindl.). Pervillé 710 (P), identified as L. flavescens, is in part L. foliosa: it seems to be a mixed sheet of different species, with duplicates at K. A collection by Neraud (G) from Réunion has a contemporary label of Malaxis flexuosa, but this is likely to be a transcription error.
Cultivation:
As given for the genus, warm growing terrestrial.
Distribution:
Madgascar, Mauritius, Reunion and the Seychelles
References:
Flora of Madagascar: vascular plants: 49th family, Orchids / by H. Perrier de La Bathie; published under the auspices of the government of Madagascar and under the direction of H. Humbert; English revision and translation by Steven D. Beckman; Historie Particulier des Plantes Orchidees Recueilles Sur Trois Iles Australes d'Afrique Thouars 1822; Malaxideae (Orchidaceae) in Madagascar, the Mascarenes, Seychelles and Comoro Islands Kew Bulletin volume 75, Article number: 1 (2020)
Images:
Click on each image to see a larger version.