Satyrium breve Rolfe in D.Oliver & auct. suc. (eds.), Fl. Trop. Afr. 7: 274 (1898).
Satyrium breve var. minor Summerh., Bot. Not. 1937: 189 (1937).
A terrestrial herb 1-7 dm. high, mostly glabrous; tubers ellipsoid, ovoid or fusiform, 1-4 cm. long, 5-22 mm. in diameter, glabrous or ± tomentose; roots slender, flexuous, pubescent. Sterile stem up to 19 cm. long, 4-leaved; lower leaves sheath-like, adpressed, the upper leaves lanceolate, to 31 cm. long and 2 cm. broad. Flowering stem erect, slender to rather stout, leafy along its entire length; leaves 5-8, the lowermost 1-3 sheath-like, obtuse, the remainder ± erect, lanceolate or narrowly lanceolate, acute, up to 6-21 (-31) cm. long and 1-4 cm. broad, the uppermost much smaller. Inflorescence ± pyramidal, 2-10(-13) cm. long, 2-5 cm. in diameter, densely 10- to many-flowered; bracts spreading, the lower ones reflexed, lanceolate, acute, 7-35 mm. long, hairy inside. Flowers almost spreading, sessile, pink, deep red, mauve or purple, sometimes with darker markings; ovary 6-8 mm. long. Sepals and petals projecting forwards, united to one another in their lower half or third and with the lip in their lower third or quarter; intermediate sepal narrowly oblong-oblanceolate, rounded, 7.5-21 mm. long, 1.5-2(-3) mm. broad; laterals obliquely oblong-elliptical, obtuse, shorter than the intermediate but 2.5-7 mm. broad, several-veined. Petals similar to intermediate sepal but narrower, like it 3-veined; all tepals pubescent inside at the base. Lip very convex with a wide mouth, the apex narrowed and erect, 7-16 mm. long; spurs short and broad, 1.5-5.5 mm. long, ± 2 mm. in diameter. Column slightly curved, the slender stalk longer than the fertile part, 5-8 mm. long, glabrous; stigma semi-orbicular, concave, ± 1.5 mm. high and 2.5-3.5 mm. broad, rostellum porrect, truncate, shortly and equally toothed in front.
Wet grasslands and swamps, rarely in bushes. Alt. 1000-2300 m.
This species is very variable in plant and flower size, and has an unusually long flowering season. On Zomba Plateau in southern Malawi, plants with few-flowered inflorescences and larger, dark-coloured flowers and relatively long spurs (5 mm) are shorter in stature and flower earlier than plants with many-flowered inflorescences and smaller, paler, short-spurred flowers. It is possible that these could be distinguished at varietal level but detailed work is necessary.
Flowering in July-February.
The closest relative of Satyrium breve appears to be Satyrium paludosum Rchb.f. Both species differ in the flower colour and presence - Satyrium breve, or absence - Satyrium paludosum, of the pubescence on inner surface of the tepals.
As given for the genus, warm to cold growing terrestrial.
Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire), Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique.
Orchidaceae of West-central Africa, vol. 1, Gdansk University Press Gdansk 2010; Flora of Tropical East Africa Orchidaceae Part 1 Summerhayes 1968; The Orchids of South Central Africa Williamson 1977; Flora Zambesiaca Vol 11 Orchidaceae Part 1 Pope 1995; Field Guide to the Ethiopian Orchids Demissew, Cribb & Rasmussen 2004; Flora of Tropical Africa, Vol 7, page 12, (1898) Author: (By R. A. Rolfe.); Molecular Markers Reject Monophyly of the Subgenera of Satyrium (Orchidaceae) Timotheüs van der Niet, Systematic Botany, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 2005), pp. 263-274; Additions to the Orchid Flora of Angola, Tanzania and Zimbabwe Timotheüs van der Niet, Kew Bulletin, Vol. 61, No. 2 (2006), pp. 261-264
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