AFRICAN

ORCHIDS

Aeranthes virginalis D.L.Roberts, Kew Bull. 60: 139 (2005).
Description:
Erect herb. Leaves oblong-ligulate, unequally apically acutely bilobed, up to 30 cm long, 3.6 cm wide. Inflorescence arching, up to 65 cm long, several- flowered, flowering at random, branching; rhachis fractiflex towards apex; floral and non-floral bracts sheathing, ovate, acuminate, up to 4.2 cm long; bracts usually as long or longer than internodes (rarely shorter). Flowers pale, translucent green; pedicel and ovary 24 mm long. Dorsal sepal erect, narrowly ovate, tapering to base, acuminate, 40 - 44 mm long, 10 - 11 mm wide. Lateral sepals strongly falcate, acuminate, 30 - 33 x 12 - 15 mm wide, crossing to varying degrees in front of the lip and spur. Petals ovate, acuminate, subfalcate, held horizontally at 90' to the column, 31 - 33 x 10 mm. Lip ovate-triangular, acuminate, 33 x 16 - 19 mm, deflexed and bent beyond 180' in the middle, auriculate at base, lower margins serrate; spur narrowly subclavate, 18 x 3 mm. Column oblong, entire, 4 - 5 x 4 mm; rostellum bilobed, the lobes pendent, narrow, pointed projections, up to 3 mm long, containing the viscidia and stipes; anther-cap cucullate, glabrous, 3.0 x 1.5 mm; pollinia 2, hard; viscidia, 3.5 mm long, very thin- textured, ligulate, acuminate, laying along rostellum lobes. Capsule not seen.
Etymology:
The specific epithet virginalis refers to the "cross-legged" appearance of the lateral sepals.
Habitat:
Epiphyte in mossy cloud forest, 1.5-2 m above the ground; 600 m; flowering in December.
Cultivation:
As given for the genus.
Notes:
This species is already established in cultivation and is often mistakenly grown as Aeranthes grandiflora Lindl. or "A. sp. near A. grandiflora" (J. Hermans, pers. comm. 2002). However, Aeranthes virginalis is readily distinguished from all other members of the genus by the lateral sepals that cross in front of the lip and spur, and its curious habit of producing plantlets along the inflorescence. This latter feature may explain why this species is comparatively widespread in cultivation. In addition, it differs from Aeranthes grandiflora by the narrowly subclavate spur, which is more reminiscent of that of Aeranthes ramosa Rolfe, petals that spread horizontally at 90° to the column and the serrated lower margins of the lip.
Distribution:
Comoros
References:
Aeranthes virginalis (Orchidaceae): A New Species from the Comoro Islands, David L. Roberts, Kew Bulletin,Vol. 60, No. 1 (2005), pp. 139-141; Angraecoid Orchids Species From The African Regions Stewart Hermans Campbell 2006; Du Puy, D., Cribb, P. J., Bosser, J., Hermans, J. & Hermans, C. (1999). Orchids of Madagascar. Checklist and Annotated Bibliography. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew ;WCSP (2017). 'World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. 21.01-2017; http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
Images:
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In culture In culture In culture
Aeranthes virginalis 01 Aeranthes virginalis  02 Aeranthes virginalis  03
Photograph Gilles Grunenwald. Image used with kind permission. Photograph Gilles Grunenwald. Image used with kind permission. Photograph Gilles Grunenwald. Image used with kind permission.