Vanilla polylepis Summerh., Bot. Mus. Leafl. 14: 219 (1951).
Vanilla schliebenii Mansf. ex Schlieb., Gartenflora 86: 42 (1937), nom. subnud.
Climbing and trailing, leafy liane up to 800 cm long. Roots adventitious arising at nodes, opposite each single leaf. Internodes 8-15 cm long, 0.4—1.2 cm in diameter, fleshy, terete, glabrous. Leaves shortly petiolate; petiole ca. 0.6 cm long, canaliculate, twisted; blade 11-21 cm long, 3-8 cm wide, usually oblong, rarely elliptic-lanceolate, ovate to oblanceolate, with ca. I cm long apiculus, fleshy. Inflorescence 3-5 cm long, densely 10-20-flowered, axillary, unbranched. Flowers rather large, white or greenish-white, lip yellow towards the base. Floral bracts up to 15 mm long, ovate-lanceolate, closely imbricating. Pedicel and ovary up to 6 cm long, narrowly cylindrical, twisted at the base, fleshy. Dorsal sepal 36-63 mm long, 5-20 mm wide, oblanceolate to oblong-lanceolate above the linear basal quarter, subobtuse to subacute, thin, cucullate or subcucullate. Petals up to 63 mm long, 8-16 mm wide, linear-oblanceolate, strongly falcate, acute to subobtuse, with thickening outside along midvein. Lateral sepals up to 59 mm long, 10-17 mm wide, ovate-oblanceolate to oblong-obovate above the linear basal third or quarter, acute, cucullate to subcucullate, thin. Lip 45-60 mm long, 25-30 mm wide when flattened, narrowly conical towards the base, funnel-shaped, more or less cuneiform in general outline, strongly undulate in front, thick, fleshy, indistinctly three-lobed, in the basal half with numerous, fleshy, branched hairs along the thickened mid-vein, with a cluster of branched, rather fleshy scales 2-2.6 mm long in the centre; the middle lobe truncate to shallowly tridentate. Gynostemium 30-45 mm long, erect, joined with the lip below stigma.
Evergreen fringing forests, mushitu, scrubby woodlands by river, trees and rocks in shade. January, August, October.
As given for the genus.
Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire), Kenya, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe. Alt. 1190-1500 m.
Orchidaceae of West-central Africa, vol. 1, Gdansk University Press Gdansk 2010; La Croix, I. et al. (1991). Orchids of Malawi A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam, La Croix, I. & Cribb, P.J. (1995). Orchidaceae (Part 1) Flora Zambesiaca 11(1)
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