AFRICAN

ORCHIDS

Liparis cladophylax Schltr., Beih. Bot. Centralbl. 34(2): 321 (1916).
Description:
Very small epiphytic plant 6 – 8 cm high, rhizome short, roots glabrous, filiform. Pseudobulbs oval, small, 8 – 10 mm high, covered in thin membranous sheaths and a leaf-like 1 cm sheath, the flowering bulb carrying 2 larger leaves. Leaves erect to sub-erect, soft, oblong-ligulate, subacute and narrowed towards the base, 3 – 4.5 × 0.6 – 0.8 mm. Inflorescence erect, slender, a little shorter than the leaves, up to 25 mm long, sub-densely 6 – 8-flowered (Schlechter’s original description has 15 – 20 flowers but there is no evidence of this in the type material). Peduncle with a short acuminate sheath. Floral bracts narrow, lanceolate, acuminate, a little shorter than the ovary, 3 – 4 × 1.5 mm. Flowers very small, somewhat spreading, greenish at first, becoming brownish-yellow with age, c. 2.5 × 3 mm. Pedicel and ovary slender, glabrous, up to 6 mm long. Dorsal sepal recurved, lanceolate, obtuse 2.5 – 3 × 0.4 – 0.6 mm. Lateral sepals oblong, obtuse, single-veined, 1.8 – 2.7 × 1.1 – 1.4 mm. Petals narrowly linear, obtuse, single-veined, a little rough at the apex, 1.9 – 2.3 × 0.3 mm. Lip slightly recurved, suborbicular without obvious veins, the base slightly auriculate, indented at the anterior margin, with a transversal ‘M’-shaped callus or thickening at the base extending into two lateral keels, carrying a few horn-like protrusions on the anterior half, 1.7 – 2 × 1.4 × 2 mm. Column with the angular wings on each side of the stigmatic surface 1.5 – 1.8 × 0.3 mm. Anther truncate at the front 0.3 × 0.3 mm. Pollinia c. 0.2 mm diam.
Etymology:
Possibly referring to the dominant leaves or to the epiphytic habit of the species.
Habitat:
Epiphyte in humid evergreen forest. Altitude: c. 800 m
Phenology:
Flowering in October.
Recognition:
The species is mainly known from Perrier’s type collection from Northern Madagascar, consisting of two plants and fragments of an inflorescence and flowers. The small size of the plant and flowers combined with the lip shape, callus and tiny horn-like protrusions at the back of the lip make it distinct.
Schlechter, in his description, wrote that this species is similar to Liparis epiphytica Schltr. (Schlechter 1905b), from Western Africa: in several characteristics the plant and habit are similar although the leaves in L. epiphytica are blunter, the flowers of L. cladophylax are much smaller (about half the size), the lip basal formation is also different (‘M’-shaped vs rectangular). There are some similarities to L. cespitosa but that has a single leaf, and there are also differences in the lip which is rounded in L. cladophylax and more expanded and dentate in L. cespitosa. It is also close to L. scaposa but the flowers are smaller, the column has smaller wings and a smaller callus on the lip. As the species is only known from limited material, it is difficult to assess its identity with any certainty. The original description calls for a dense spike of 15 – 20 flowers but the herbarium material bears no resemblance to this, this characteristic would make it very different from similar small species; with this conflict between type material and the description the species will have to remain somewhat ambiguous.
Cultivation:
As given for the genus, warm growing epiphyte terrestrial.
Notes:
The holotype, collected as Perrier 139, was then changed to Perrier 11360 and is lodged in Paris; this is sometimes cited as an isotype but it is clearly marked as Schlechter’s type as used for the protologue and should therefore be considered the holotype of the species, especially as any other of Schlechter’s material would be likely to have been destroyed in Berlin.
Distribution:
N. 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; Orchids of Madagascar Du Puy, Hermans, Bosser and Cribb 2007; A Field Guide to the Orchids of Madagascar Hermans and Cribb 2009; Malaxideae (Orchidaceae) in Madagascar, the Mascarenes, Seychelles and Comoro Islands Kew Bulletin volume 75, Article number: 1 (2020)
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