AFRICAN

ORCHIDS

Liparis densa Schltr., Repert. Spec. Nov. Regni Veg. Beih. 33: 137 (1924).
Description:
Small, compact, erect terrestrial or lithophytic plant, 10 – 15 cm tall, rhizome very short, roots wiry, glabrous. Pseudobulbs oblong, almost completely submerged in soil and humus, 2-edged, compressed, 2 – 3 × 1.2 – 1.4 cm, watery, turning into pulp under finger pressure, carrying 2 – 5 leaves, the base enveloping the pseudobulbs. Leaves erectly to sub-erectly spreading, oblong-ligulate, acute or somewhat obtuse, a little fleshy, 6 – 8 cm long, 1.2 – 2.5 cm wide. Inflorescence up to 11 cm long, with none or one thin sheath towards the base, carrying up to 15 flowers. Peduncle ridged, up to 6 cm, hardly longer than the leaf sheaths. Rachis densely flowered, cylindrical, much longer than the peduncle, up to 8 cm long, 1.7 mm diam. Floral bracts narrowly lanceolate, acuminate, the lower ones as long as the ovary or longer, the upper ones shorter, up to 10 × 2.1 mm. Flowers small, 10 × 5 mm, uniformly pale yellow to yellow. Pedicel and ovary rounded, slightly ridged, 8 × 0.8 mm. Dorsal sepal erect, ligulate-lanceolate, obtuse, 6.5 – 8 × 1 – 1.3 mm. Lateral sepals subfalcate, oblong, obtuse, spreading, curled backwards, 4.8 – 5 × 2.2 – 2.7 mm. Petals erect or semi-erect, linear, somewhat obtuse, 6.5 – 8 × 0.8 – 1 mm. Lip distinctly geniculate, recurved, obovate-oblong, very obtuse, margins sub-crenulate, basal margins minutely triangular-auriculate, creating a deep gutter at the base, without a callus on the disk and base, 4.5 – 6 × 2 – 3.7 mm when flattened. Column curved, wings small and rounded, 3 – 4 × 1.2 mm. Anther with a small triangular beak, 0.6 × 0.7 mm. Pollinia ovate, c. 0.2 mm diam.
Etymology:
Presumably refers to the compact habit of plant and inflorescence.
Recognition:
The species is distinct by the compact plant and inflorescence with the rachis longer than the peduncle, the semi-erect petals and the knee-shaped lip without a callus. Schlechter pointed out in his description that this species is related to Liparis capensis Lindl. (Lindley 1840: 314) known from the Western and Eastern Cape of South Africa. Although related, plants of L. capensis are generally shorter, normally have two narrower leaves, flowers about ¼ smaller, a slightly different lip (elliptic vs obovate) with a small conical callus at its base vs ecallose. There are similarities in plant habit to L. bathiei but the flowers are almost double the size, the lip is obovate vs oval-lozenge shaped and the anther is triangular vs rounded. In plant habit it is similar to L. bicornis but the flowers are very different with the lip obovate vs ovate-obcuneate and without callus at the base vs distinctly two-horned. It is closest to L. lutea and they could well be the same species but the pseudobulbs are longer, the leaves bigger, the inflorescence and rachis more compact and the flower segments a little larger. Due to the limited nature of the type material of L. lutea it is impossible to effectively compare the two species.
Habitat:
Terrestrial or lithophyte on shaded and humid rocks, partly submerged in humus. Altitude: c. 2400 m.
Phenology:
Flowing in January.
Notes:
The species was first collected by Perrier in the Andringitra Massif in SE Madagascar in 1922. It was described by Schlechter in Germany two years later and the type specimens were returned to Paris. There are two herbarium sheets of Perrier 14358 in P marked as ‘type’: the sheet with barcode P00094972 is the most complete with characteristic clumps of plants and is therefore chosen here as the lectotype, with sheet P00094972 being the isolectotype.
Humbert 13559 shows some differences from the type, as noted by Perrier: its pseudobulb and leaf-shape are similar, but its lip is a little larger and has a different shape but this is difficult to confirm in the dried specimens.
Cultivation:
As given for the genus.
Distribution:
Endemic to Madagascar
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; Notulae systematicae. [v.4-5 (1920-1935)]: Page 298; Malaxideae (Orchidaceae) in Madagascar, the Mascarenes, Seychelles and Comoro Islands Kew Bulletin volume 75, Article number: 1 (2020)
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